The Los Angeles Lakers are working out Brandon Ingram on Thursday, giving the team an up close and personal look at the freshman forward they are projected to take with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft later this month. Mitch Kupchak, Jim Buss, and the rest of the Lakers front office probably have a pretty good idea of what to expect from Ingram at this point, but what about those of us that don't watch much college basketball?
Almost anyone even passively following the NBA Draft and which players the Lakers are rumored to be interested in knows the cliffs notes on Ingram. The former Blue Devil is a rangy 6'9 forward whose body type has drawn numerous comparisons to a young, rail-thin Kevin Durant.
Also like Durant, Ingram will primarily play small forward when he enters the league, which is a large reason why he is seen as such a seamless fit with a young Lakers' core that already features two power forwards (Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr), a shooting guard (Jordan Clarkson, who is a restricted free agent, but a near certainty to be retained), and a point guard (D'Angelo Russell).
With those basics out of the way and Durant already being mentioned twice now in this article, we can get to the first question of this FAQ:
Is Brandon Ingram going to be as good as Kevin Durant?
If this seems like a dumb question to you, congratulations on having reasonable expectations for rookies. Just because Ingram has drawn and will continue to draw comparisons to Durant due to the aforementioned similar body types plus the general laziness and attempts to shoehorn players evident in most pre-draft comparisons does not make him Durant. Even Kevin Durant was the Kevin Durant we know today in name only at 19-years old. Like all rookies, Ingram will need time.
Ingram may not be Durant, but he is an incredibly high-level prospect. His length allowed him to get off a shot over most college defenders as easily as Yi Jianlian shoots over a chair, and he can convert those shots at a pretty high rate.
How good of a shooter is he?
Very good. He will have to adjust to NBA range, but Ingram shot 41 percent from behind the arc during his lone season in Durham, doing most of his damage from the left side:
Ingram's ability to space the floor would add a sorely needed dimension to a Lakers offense that was often so clogged last season one would be forgiven for thinking it was modeled after the traffic surrounding Staples Center on game nights. Defenders having to stick with Ingram on the perimeter will mean there is one less player Los Angeles' opponents can send into the paint to muck up his teammates post-ups and drives next season, a frequent problem for last year's team.
If Ingram is indeed the choice for Los Angeles come draft night, expect new head coach Luke Walton to find more than a few interesting ways to leverage the threat of his shooting to create opportunities for himself or his teammates.
So is this guy just a glorified
Sasha Vujacic spot-up shooter? What else can he do offensively?
Glad you asked, hypothetical person serving as a narrative device! Ingram is a lot more than just a floor-spacing threat, and not all of his three-pointers were due to kick outs. Ingram is more than capable of using his length to create his own looks:
He can and will do the same thing over smaller defenders no matter how closely they contest inside the arc:
If teams try to guard him with a larger player or he gets one on a switch, Ingram will just glide to the rim with ease:
Ingram even displayed a smoother looking spin move than one would expect from such a lanky young player when he didn't have straight line path to the basket:
He can also use his endless arms and length to just throw down on guys trying to take a charge:
Ingram's teammates seem to enjoy when he does that last thing:
All of these examples are of him scoring. Does he know how to pass?
Ingram proved himself as more than competent passer during his freshman season. He only averaged two assists per game at Duke, but in college he was asked to be the first option on offense, a burden he won't carry in the NBA. Ingram is happy to set up a teammate when given the opportunity, and he can even make these decisions quickly, like he did out of this horns action:
Ingram also flashed an ability to find teammates as the ball handler in a pick-and-roll, a skill that if translated to the NBA would enable Walton to further diversify the Lakers' play calls out of what figures to be a frequently used action during his tenure:
Ingram does have a bad habit of jumping to set up these passes, something that will lead to turnovers in the NBA until he adjusts to how much faster windows close at that level, but he's off to a promising start.
More likely to translate immediately will be his good instincts on when to make the simpler kick out to a teammate while running a fast break:
If the Lakers can get enough stops to get out on the break, having multiple players able to take a rebound the length of the court and make plays will make them harder to defend, which brings us to our ne--
Okay, enough about offense. Is this guy going to fix the Lakers defense?
As I was about to say before being interrupted, this brings to our next issue: the Lakers' moribund defense over the last three years. Can Ingram fix it? Like, by himself? No.
All right, smart ass. Can he at least help?
Yes, Ingram can help. The same skyscraping arms that make his jumper virtually unblockable make other player's shots far from safe when Ingram is in the vicinity, whether he's switching onto and going stride for stride with a shorter player:
Or coming from the weakside to protect the basket:
The shots Ingram's Mr. Fantastic-like wingspan allows him to affect can also lead to good things on the other end:
How about his intangibles? Does he seem like a good kid?
Yes. Mike Bresnahan of the L.A. Times' profile on Ingram not only revealed that some of his main hobbies include fishing and sketching drawings, but also that he has a natural work ethic that had him putting up as many as 800 shots a day in middle school. He hasn't slowed down his attempts to improve his game since.
"Normally when I wake up it's straight to the gym," said Ingram during an interview with Draft Express about his pre-draft process. "Probably about 6:30 I'll get some shots up, probably run on the treadmill and then just wait for another workout. We work out at a gym about 10 or 20 minutes from where we live and we're in there for probably half of the day."
In the same interview, Ingram also sounded like he relishes the opportunity to be a role model as well:
"Probably accountability and responsibility, just taking responsibility for my own actions and probably just knowing that I'm always being watched," said Ingram when asked what he would take away from his time at Duke. "Just knowing that kids are looking up to me and trying to do the right thing at all times."
So yeah, he seems like a pretty good personality to have in a young, growing locker room.
That sounds great. Kevin Durant is nice too! Can he ever be Kevin Durant?
Not right off the bat, and such comparisons are getting way ahead of things. What Ingram does project to be is a nice piece for the Lakers rebuild moving forward, and a piece with an incredibly high ceiling at that. Ben Simmons may have received more hype all year, but if the draft goes as expected and Ingram ends up in purple and gold, he's no ordinary consolation prize.
You can follow this author on Twitter at @hmfaigen.