If there’s been a most consistent criticism of the play of Brandon Ingram this season, it’s been his shot selection. He plays like he was teleported straight from the ‘90s, where the mid-range jumper reigned supreme. The problem is, the math of basketball has changed and, unless you’re absolutely elite in the midrange, you’re usually better off taking a step or two back and firing from distance.
Ingram sat down with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com for a fun interview and addressed how few 3-pointers he’s taking compared to the midrange. It all comes down to confidence:
“It’s been a bit of an adjustment. Coming from college to the NBA, the line does get a little further. I think my first year, I couldn’t even get the ball to the rim from the 3-point line, so that kind of changed up a little bit. I had to change my mechanics. As the the year went on, I got comfortable. I get more comfortable every year, every month every day that I put in the repetition.
“But I plan to shoot more threes, especially this year. I’m feeling more comfortable behind the three, but the mid-range game has been really good to me this year — especially being at the two position — shooting over smaller players and just getting to the basket.”
Ingram also walked us through his thought process (which he admits he has to change or at least make more consistent) and how so much of it has to do with knowing he can get a clean look whenever he wants.
“It’s tricky sometimes, because I feel like I can get my shot off at any time. And I try to figure out, sometimes, I’m not being aggressive. Sometimes I’m taking the midrange a little bit too much. Sometimes I can get all the way to the rim instead of settling for the mid-range (jumper).
“When no one stops you, just get to the basket, and that’s what I’m learning as I continue to play.”
So, if Ingram already has it in his head that he’s going to take more threes, has thought about ways to get more of them and is getting increasingly comfortable behind the 3-point line, um, what’s it going to take to finally star taking them?
“Watching more film. I just have to know when the shot is going to come — when I can get that shot up. But all-in-all it’s just me just taking the shot a little bit more so I can feel more comfortable in games.
Let’s actually take a look at where Ingram’s shots are coming from (according to NBA.com). What you’ll find is that the midrange hasn’t actually been really good to him.
On the season, Ingram has taken a total of 249 field-goal attempts (not including shots he’s taken, been fouled on, but didn’t make the shot). Of those 249 shots, only 34 have come from 3-point range, putting him in the 1st percentile among wings — you don’t want to be first in this race. Of all his makes, only 37.9 percent have been assisted, meaning the vast majority of Ingram’s shots have been two-pointers off the dribble.
Ingram has attempted more shots from inside the restricted area than anywhere else on the court, which is good! He’s shooting 56.6 percent on those attempts, which is ... not great (39th percentile among wings). You’d like to see that percentage to go up, but still, this is a decent place to start.
Where things get ugly quickly is where he’s shot the second-most attempts from this season: The dreaded midrange. Ingram’s attempted 73 shots from there this year (again, not counting attempts where he was fouled but missed) at a rate of 35.6 percent. While that puts him at slightly better than league average among wings, that’s still a wildly inefficient approach to basketball.
You know how Ingram said he feels like he can get his shot off basically no matter what in the midrange? Well, to a certain extent, he’s absolutely right. He’s 6’9”, can jump pretty well and has arms that go forever, so yeah, very few human beings on earth can stop him if he wants to take that shot.
On the other hand, though, anyone who’s ever played pickup and had a tough day shooting has had a teammate ask them why they think they’re open.
Given how poorly he shoots in the midrange, it’s fair to wonder whether opposing defenses are probably letting Ingram shoot, which might be inflating his already-admittedly too high confidence in his ability to get those shots off.
It’s great to hear that he’s watching film to find ways to get himself more ready for 3-point attempts. I’m still dubious, but it’s at least a good place to start. Because the sooner he learns that and gets comfortable with it, the sooner he’ll start to make a lot more sense not only for the Lakers and alongside LeBron James, but in general given where successful offenses are run from in 2018.
It’s still early in the season, and Ingram only started drinking legally months ago, so there’s still time to rethink a lot of this from his perspective. And, in fairness to Ingram, he did get better at recognizing those 3-point opportunities and knocking them down as last year went along. Here’s hoping that trend continues and preferably sets in even earlier than a year ago.