#7. Brandon Ingram
Average Rank: 7.3
A year after selecting D’Angelo Russell with the second overall pick, the ping pong gods smiled upon the Los Angeles Lakers and allowed them to keep their top-three protected pick. They were fortunate enough to select second in a consensus two-pick draft, taking Duke product Brandon Ingram.
At 6’9" (6’10"? he’s still growing!) and around 195 pounds, Ingram still needs to add muscle to his frame in order to withstand the pounding of the modern NBA. On the other hand, he has already demonstrated the kind of potential that had NBA fans drooling in the lead-up to the draft while averaging a strong but not eye-popping 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in 27 minutes during Las Vegas Summer League.
As he develops, Ingram’s ceiling is limitless. Due to his length, wiry frame and size, he has commonly (some might say relentlessly) drawn comparisons to Kevin Durant throughout the draft process. Ingram may carry a similar competitive fire to KD, but their games were quite different upon entering the league. Durant was already an elite offensive player, averaging nearly 26 points and 11 rebounds a night while dominating his college competition. For his part, Ingram averaged a respectable 17 points and seven boards, but made his living on the defensive end, where his college accomplishments dwarfed Durant's.
That’s good news for Lakers fans, who have been hoping to find an athletic defender to guard the likes of Durant and Kawhi Leonard for years to come. In the short-term, Ingram may be outmuscled in the post, but his length and closing speed will enable him to compete on that end of the court. Although his contributions will be more limited on offense, Ingram should develop into a versatile playmaker and solid shooter over time, given that he shot over 40 percent from three in his lone season at Duke last year.
If the rankings were for future impact, he’d be a lock for a top-two position. The big question for Ingram is what kind of role he’s ready for in 2016-17. While a 7th ranked position on this season’s rankings may appear middling, it is probably the perfect position for Ingram to grow into his role.
While there’s no official word from the Walton camp, it’s a safe bet that Luke will actually try to use his young players, allowing them to play through their mistakes and learn the NBA game. The Lakers are expected to improve on last year’s bottom dwelling win total, but not by much. In terms of role, Luol Deng will help serve as a pressure release valve, allowing Ingram to come off the bench to start the season. Deng is a savvy veteran who can both serve as a mentor and take some of the more physically imposing defensive assignments next season.
Ultimately, success for Brandon Ingram this season will be defined by how quickly he can find his footing. No one is expecting him to be an elite scorer out of the gate, but Lakers fans will be watching for emerging defensive prowess and glimpses of the player many believe Ingram can become. The Lakers have an enviable core moving forward and Ingram figures to be a huge part of it.