The Los Angeles Lakers are still experimenting with how best to utilize Brandon Ingram offensively. To this point of the still fairly young season, Ingram has been asked to create for himself for the most part, a role that requires both physical and mental ability.
With that freedom comes the opportunity to overreach, or push too hard to produce individually. It all starts with confidence, and, according to Ingram, it’s possible to have too much.
“I think sometimes I may be too confident,” Ingram said. “When I’m just playing the game of basketball is when I’m at my best. Not forcing shots, taking whatever comes to me, getting in the lane and just making plays for other people.”
Ingram’s assessment of what it takes for him to make a positive impact on a game is almost frustrating because of how infrequently he actually puts himself in situations where the game can come to him.
Ingram ranks third-lowest on the Lakers in assisted made field goals, behind only Rajon Rondo, a point guard who dominates the ball, and LeBron James. As it stands right now, only 37.9 percent of Ingram’s makes have been assisted. That number needs to go up and, if Ingram took his own advice and did more off the ball to make his life easier, he’d probably become a more efficient player.
Just watch Ingram on offense when he doesn’t have the ball. His posture becomes passive. His arms drop to their full length. His eyes focus on the ball, and not how the defense is responding to what the ball is doing. He just kind of ... floats, waiting for his next isolation opportunity to come.
While you might think this passive approach to playing off the ball is exactly the kind of thing Ingram means when he says he has to let the game come to him, it actually forces him to create almost everything for himself. Players have to do a little work so the game can come to them. Ingram doesn’t, and therefore he has to force things. Ingram has the confidence to do that, but as he noted, he’d be better off if he was a little more selective in when he displays that faith in himself.
Since Rondo broke his hand, Ingram has been asked to score off an even lower percentage of assisted opportunities. His 26.3 percent rate of assisted field goals made is the lowest portion of anyone on the roster to have played meaningful minutes. When Rondo comes back, that trend has to end.
Basically, Ingram is a good defender whose offensive approach takes away from any value he might accrue on the other end of the court. There’s still some time to turn things around, but he has some pretty poor habits he’ll have to correct. If the Lakers can tweak his role and he can rethink his approach to the game, maybe he can become a net-neutral offensive player so that all of his defensive value can be highlighted and not taken away from.
It’s going to take time, and Rondo’s return will hopefully end Ingram’s time as the de-facto backup point guard, but Ingram will have to do more than just sit back and hope things turn around.