Brandon Ingram may not have the hype of leading the Los Angeles Lakers back to contending that Lonzo Ball does, but his growth remains one of the biggest keys for the franchise to take a step forward.
There’s no denying that versatile, lanky forwards that can defend, ball handle, run the floor, finish around the rim and play inside-out are all the rage. The veteran, established All-Star types like Kevin Durant, LeBron James and Kawhi Leonard helped pave the way for younger prospects like Giannis Antetokounmpo and Ingram.
Ingram’s post All-Star break was a great way to show the franchise signs of life after a tough start to his rookie campaign, and he looked head and shoulders above the competition in his lone Las Vegas Summer League game. Still, a quick glance at his statistics last season show a glaring hole in Ingram’s game that can open a world of possibilities for his on offense: His three-point shooting.
Ingram shot 29.4 percent from deep on the season on 2.4 attempts per game. That’s obviously not a great number, and even with his increase in points per game (13.2 post All-Star, 8.0 pre All-Star) to end the year, his three-point shooting actually saw a further drop (down to 26.9% from 30.4%).
That’s something he’s been working on tirelessly with Lakers assistant coach Brian Keefe, who was helping Durant develop in the exact same way not-so-long ago. World class Lakers reporter Mike Trudell graciously provided a fascinating update on Ingram’s progress, straight from Ingram and Keefe (via Lakers.com):
Ingram: For me it was the mechanics of the shot. Coach Keefe and I did a good job of just trying to come here every day and work. We started out with form shooting. Trying to keep myself from shooting over my head
Trying to find different ways that I feel comfortable shooting the basketball the right way. That was the first thing. The second thing was to get my body right. Of course, repetitions of everything I’d do in the game, but getting my body right in the weight room. Trying to eat a little bit better and eat a little bit more.
Ingram has been working with Keefe to overcome a unique problem. His huge wingspan and lack of NBA-level strength led him to try to “push the ball” from deep “like a slingshot.”
“I was shooting over my head. With my long arms, it was like a slingshot. Coming from college to the NBA, I was only about 180 pounds, so I was trying to push the ball to the rim from the 3-point line. I think I’ve gotten strong enough now where I feel comfortable shooting the ball from the 3-point line now. As I keep getting stronger, it’s going to be natural,” Ingram explained.
Watching Ingram putting up three-point attempts during a Team USA event last summer, around the time of summer league, is a pretty good exercise in observing Brandon reel back to push his shot from deep:
It makes sense that he’d struggle from outside. One of the biggest areas rookies have problems adjusting is from beyond the arc, where they’re shooting from farther than they ever have while dealing with the growing pains of their first season the league. On the bright side, Durant shot 28.8 percent from deep as a rookie. He’s since logged three seasons shooting over 40 percent from deep, and is a career 37.9 percent shooter from outside.
Keefe provided further insight on the kind of adjustments he’s trying to help Brandon make.
“(We focused on) his hand placement on the ball and where his guide hand was. He has very long arms, so making his shot a little bit tighter and more compact, because when you have long arms more mistakes can be made. Shooting more one-handed and getting his left hand off the ball, specifically,” Keefe told Trudell.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of growth we see from Ingram in this area, but that he’s taking a very serious approach to refining several aspects of his shot is a great sign. Applying it in games is another challenge, of course, but making the mechanical changes part of his muscle memory in the meantime is the best thing he can do.
The full interview from Trudell points to Ingram being fully locked in and focused on his own improvement this summer, so be sure to read the the entire thing over on Lakers.com.