People have been comparing Los Angeles Lakers sophomore Brandon Ingram to Golden State Warriors forward Kevin Durant since before the former even entered the NBA. The reasons are obvious. Durant and Ingram are both long, skinny and smooth athletes who look like they can shoot over anyone, any time.
Well, Durant actually can shoot and score over anyone whenever he wants, and he told Bill Simmons during an appearance on his podcast that’s why comparing Ingram to him is flattering, albeit unfair.
“I appreciate it. Especially when it’s accurate. Somebody like Brandon Ingram feels like, it looks like he can play like me. We have similar builds,” Durant said (h/t Jacob Rude of Lakers Outsiders). “But some of the times it’s alright to compare a guy to Meyers Leonard or Darren Collison when they come into the draft. It’s alright. Those guys are really good players and have made a lot of money. You don’t have to compare them to stars. The expectations, man, that can kill a player.”
The expectations haven’t killed Ingram yet, but the pre-draft hype surrounding him certainly hurt the way he was perceived after a rookie year that saw him struggle to score while looking very much like the over-matched 19-year-old he was.
Durant still has a point. Every draft, players are compared to superstars that came before, the best case projections taken as a near certainty when the reality is that some players just don’t pan out. It’s probably because it’s easier to sell fans on “the next Kevin Durant” rather than “the next [role player X].”
Comparing a player to Durant or another superstar also makes it easier for the average fan to visualize their games and conceptualize their skills than comparing them to a role player most may have less experience with, even if the player will ultimately never reach those heights.
That isn’t to say Ingram won’t fulfill his full potential, but it’s entirely possible he’s closer to Darren Collison or Meyers Leonard than Kevin Durant. In fact (and this is no slight to Ingram) it’s probably likely given Durant’s stratospheric level of talent that Ingram is closer to those players than Durant, even if he ultimately surpasses both.
The point is, pre-draft comparisons get out of control sometimes and can haunt players if they don’t live up to them. Rather than calling Ingram the next Durant, we should be looking for him to be the first Ingram, even if that makes it harder to project what he’ll ultimately be.