For a team that spoke endlessly about going small throughout the offseason, the Los Angeles Lakers are employing one of the league’s longest starting lineups — featuring one of the tallest shooting guards you’ll ever see. Brandon Ingram says he’s enjoyed that role, and think he can continue to get better at it.
“I love it,” Ingram said. “I think me having the ability to use my length on smaller guys to my advantage, where I can use my length and move my feet on the defensive end and be able to shoot over the short guys, that’s been really good for me the last two games.”
Luke Walton put together this specific starting five of Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, LeBron James and JaVale McGee as a means to carve out a few extra minutes for both Ingram and Kuzma. So far, the group has looked really good, especially in comparison to a bench unit that might set records for defensive inefficiency.
The Lakers will have to find ways to balance out their two groups, but for now, the starting lineup is a good starting point to figuring out the rotation.
Ingram seems to be finding his niche in the Lakers’ offense, too, and is taking advantage of the smaller defenders he’ll face as the team’s primary shooting guard. That’s the first step, next will be focusing on improving in those situations:
“I haven’t frustrated anybody,” he said. “If I continue to get comfortable and confident, even more confident, in the shots that I take, it will continue to get better.”
So, a couple things: Defensively, I can roll with the thinking that he can thrive as a point-of-attack defender utilizing his natural talents and competitive nature. That part, I’m cool with, and Ingram showed it while frustrating rookie sensation Luka Doncic on Wednesday night.
Offensively is where this role might not be the best fit.
I’m not particularly fond of the shots that Ingram gets while guarded by these smaller players. A little too often, he falls in love with contested midrange pull-ups off the dribble. That just doesn’t seem like a very effective way to use him. This isn’t to say he should stop those altogether, just that if that’s the foundation of his production, he has to be absolutely elite at those shots to be efficient.
Take last night for example: Ingram scored 17 points on 16 shot attempts and only one free throw. It’s a one-game sample size, but if that’s how the Lakers are going to be using Ingram while he’s on the court with the other starters, he’s probably better off spending a little more time with that bench unit that needs his length on the perimeter defensively, as well as his creative abilities on offense.
Now, if the coaching staff tells him that despite having smaller guys on him, the focus should still be getting to the basket, then cool. But what he can’t do is solely use his length on offense to merely rise over smaller defenders for midrange jumpers off the dribble, as enticing as that option can be given his natural gifts.
Finding that balance is going to take time and, so long as the starters continue to produce, Ingram will have time to figure that out. He’s just too talented not to.