The bright lights of Los Angeles have consumed more than a few small town natives with big dreams, but Brandon Ingram isn't planning on joining their ranks. The 18-year old small forward from Duke the Lakers are all but assured to select with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Thursday knows he'll have to be exceptional to succeed in the NBA.
Not to worry, he says growing up in the small town of Kinston, North Carolina prepared him to do just that.
"[Kinston is] kind of a tough city to live in," Ingram told assembled reporters a day before the draft. "A city where you have to separate yourself to succeed in life."
Ingram seems to have separated himself from almost his entire draft class quite well but, while he acknowledges he's heard rumors, Ingram says he has no promises of going anywhere when Adam Silver starts calling players names on Thursday night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
That uncertainty would make a lot of people nervous, but Ingram says he's not worried about where he ends up, and that he'll work as hard as possible to prove to any team that drafts him that they made the right call.
"Getting drafted alone is great itself," said Ingram. "So 1,2,3, I'll be happy."
In the exceedingly likely event they do draft Ingram, the Lakers will be happy as well. The versatile 6'9 forward with a 7'3 wingspan projects as a perfect fit with the team's young core of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, D'Angelo Russell, and Larry Nance, Jr.
That's a big plus in the "pros" column when evaluating how good of a pick he'll be for the Lakers, but Ingram's combination of shooting and defensive potential would prove a snug fit for just about any NBA team, and he's noticed how well his game will translate to the modern NBA.
"You see so many guys playing different positions, and I think I have that ability going into the NBA," said Ingram. "Of course it's a process, but going in with a scoring ability and as I get stronger the ability to defend the fours and the fives, I think it's a great transition for me."
Ingram's ability to defend multiple positions is key to the style of most successful defenses in the league right now, and will be a boon to a Lakers' team that is coming off of three of the worst years in franchise history on that end the of the floor.
Defense is not the only end the Lakers need some help on, no shock for a team that is only in a position to add Ingram by virtue of posting the second-worst record in the NBA last year. One of the keys to improving on offense will be shooting more effectively from three-point range.
Ingram's 41 percent success rate from behind the arc during his lone season at Duke would suggest he can help in that department as well, but the Lakers need only look back to last season and how second-round pick Anthony Brown's stellar college three-point shooting failed to translate to the pros to see the perils of assuming a player will immediately adjust to the increased distance and difficulty of NBA three-pointers.
With that being said, it's fair to say Ingram isn't concerned about such a potential pitfall.
"NBA three-point range?" asked Ingram, raising an eyebrow when asked if he thought he could make the more difficult professional three-pointers. He paused briefly, seemingly considering how brash of a quote he wanted to give before deciding against it and simply smiling and nodding. "Yeah."
The simple answer Ingram ultimately gave mirrored how simple the Lakers own choice should be in the draft as long the Philadelphia 76ers do as expected and draft Ben Simmons with the first overall pick. Like Ingram with his answer, the Lakers don't have to be bold with their choice when the timer starts ticking. Sometimes simplicity is all you need to stand out.
Drafting Brandon Ingram is one such scenario, and Lakers fans worldwide should be thrilled if and when it happens on Thursday night.