Despite a strong showing against the LA Clippers and a promising month overall, Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram has struggled this season. The rookie has averaged 9.2 points per game while shooting just barely over 40 percent from the field, with a negative Value over Replacement Player (-1.2), which is just barely above replacement level.
Still, Ingram is just 19-years old, and he’s shown enough flashes of strong play to offer hope he’ll eventually improve enough to justify being taken with the second-overall pick in the 2017 if the Lakers show patience with him.
So while Ingram’s struggles haven’t necessarily diminished his potential, they have lowered his stock among some sects of fans, as well as observers of the league. Look no further than ESPN Insiders Kevin Pelton and Chad Ford, who re-ranked the 2016 NBA Draft based on future potential.
Ford ranked Ingram sixth, and Pelton ranked him eighth, with both writing that they think he’ll get better when he begins to add strength. What was surprising was the players they ranked ahead of him, with Ford saying Skal Labissiere of the Sacramento Kings, and Pelton going with Juan Hernangomez of the Denver Nuggets as their second-most valued players.
Hernangomez has averaged 4.9 points in 13.5 minutes per game for Denver, while Labissiere is averaging 7.7 in 16.3 minutes per contest.
Pelton justified his ranking as such:
Hernangomez has made 44 percent of his 3s, and while that's obably not sustainable, he's a good enough shooter to make defenses respect him as a stretch 4. At the other end, Hernangomez has shown great versatility. He rebounds well enough to hold his own at power forward and has unexpectedly shown sufficient agility to defend wings when Denver has started him at small forward in supersized lineups.
Ford’s reason’s for going with Labissiere were somewhat similar, valuing his shooting and defense:
He's a skilled forward who can rebound, protect the rim and shoots 3s. We haven't seen all of that in his rookie season, but I've seen enough to believe that his ceiling is higher than that of anyone else not named Simmons in this draft class. It may take him a few more seasons to get there, but since we are ranking on long-term potential, I think Labissiere would be my No. 2 pick.
Does this mean those players are guaranteed to end up better than Ingram? Of course not. These are just two writers’ opinions, and Ingram could very well still end up as the best player selected in the draft.
However, it’s interesting to see just how far Ingram’s stock has fallen in the eyes of many, and he certainly has an uphill climb to reach the star level potential some projected for him heading in the draft.