Los Angeles Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram is mostly just endless limbs with occasional flashes of shooting ability and defensive potential right now, making it hard to figure out exactly what he’ll be when and if he harnesses all his prodigious natural gifts.
During the lead up to the 2016 NBA Draft it was fashionable to compare Ingram to Kevin Durant, but as of right now he doesn’t appear to be quite as natural and effortless of a scorer as even a young Durant was.
It’s still possible Ingram begins to look a bit more like Durant at some point, however, the way Lakers head coach Luke Walton has used him this season bears more resemblance to a different spindly, athletic wing to come through the NBA in recent years: Giannis Antetokounmpo. With the Lakers’ taking on the Milwaukee Bucks on Friday night, Walton was asked for his thoughts on how the two compare (via Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com):
With the Bucks looming, Walton acknowledged similarities between Ingram’s potential and the current play of Milwaukee superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Both players are lanky with all-encompassing wingspans and have the unique handling ability to shift from their natural small forward position to point guard.
“We don’t want him to be just a scorer or just a playmaker,” Walton said of Ingram. “We wanted him to be one of those guys who, literally by being on the court, winds up with blocks, steals, rebounds, points and assists.
“Just being all over the floor. That’s our mission for what he’s going to be.”
The comparison isn’t a terrible one. Ingram was far more heralded, but both players came into the league as exceedingly raw rookies. Their per-36 minute stats are somewhat similar:
The two even had similar usage rates (15.7 for Ingram and 15 for Antetokounmpo), although Antetokounmpo was far more efficient (true-shooting percentage of 51.8 percent versus 45.8 percent for Ingram).
Perhaps what drives the comparison as much as anything is the role Walton has put Ingram in as the team’s de-facto backup point guard for most of the year before his recent move to the starting lineup. It’s somewhat reminiscent of the way the Bucks have used Antetokounmpo for the last year and a half (even if Ingram handles the bar far less, the principle is the same).
It hasn’t resulted in tremendous success for Ingram as either a scorer or a playmaker yet, but that was never the point. The goal is just to see if Ingram can handle some playmaking responsibilities, and so far he’s shown at least some competence in the role.
He doesn’t have to be Antetokounmpo yet, or ever. He just has to continue to mine his potential to the best of his ability, and he and the Lakers appear on the right track to doing that so far.