The Los Angeles Lakers selection of Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft will bring a ton of positives to the team next season. Ingram’s ability to consistently knock down three-pointers will allow the team to space the floor and run a more effective offense than they could manage last season, and his length should allow him to eventually lock down players of various shapes and sizes on defense.
“Eventually” is the operative word in that last sentence. Ingram is still just 18-years old and still has a lot of development left before he reaches his peak. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak understands this, but he also thinks at least one aspect of Ingram’s game will translate to the next level immediately.
“I think because he competes, and he's not afraid of contact based on what we've seen... he will compete at the next level and right from the bat,” said Kupchak during an appearance on ESPN’s SportsCenter. “In other words, [he will] battle bigger players, stronger players.”
While he sounds confident his youngest player will figure it out, Kupchak does acknowledge Ingram will be facing a pretty large size disadvantage during his first year in the league.
“If he plays the same position as LeBron James, then LeBron is 6'8, probably 250 or 260 [pounds], and Brandon is 6'9, and when we weighed him he was like 185 [pounds],” Kupchak continued, “So he's going to battle, but he'll be at a disadvantage with the NBA players just based on strength alone. That will take some time, he will get stronger, and add weight naturally.”
The good news for the Lakers (and Ingram) is that not every small forward in the NBA is the same size as LeBron James. In a league going smaller by the day, Ingram won’t be at as much of a size disadvantage in matchups with many of the NBA’s threes, so how much he’s going to get bullied may be a bit overstated at times.
Players the size of James will definitely try to take him into the post, but once Ingram develops his core strength a bit more this will become a fool’s errand, because his long arms will allow him to contest their shot well regardless of any small space generated.
That’s all a rosy vision for the future, which is fitting because the Lakers didn’t pick Ingram with the idea he’d make them immediately better. Kupchak and the front office have their eyes on the long term.
“To me, [Ingram’s] upside is in the potential,” said Kupchak. “[He's] very long, very skilled, helps us in the shooting, competes, attacks the rim, but he does need to get stronger and he does need to mature as a player.”
All those things are true, and it’s encouraging that the Lakers sound like they’re willing to wait.
All quotes transcribed via SportsCenter. You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.