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Rajon Rondo believes Brandon Ingram can be ‘one of the best defenders’ in the NBA

Four-time All-Defensive teamer Rajon Rondo thinks his new Lakers teammate Brandon Ingram can be a special talent defensively.

Los Angeles Lakers Practice Session Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Brandon Ingram is expected to make a leap offensively playing alongside LeBron James with the Los Angeles Lakers this season, but it’s defensively that his teammate Rajon Rondo believes he’s be the most valuable in the future.

In an interview at the Lakers’ morning shootaround Sunday, Rondo said that he’s been impressed with what he’s seen from Ingram on defense, so much so that he thinks the 21-year-old is capable of being one of the NBA’s elite defenders (via Dave McMenamin of ESPN):

“He’s a lot better defensive player than I thought,” Rondo said of the young player entering his third season. “You don’t think much of him as a defensive player, at least I didn’t, but for this team in particular it’s big for us. He should lead us in steals, deflections, blocks. He can do it all. Switch 1 through 5. I’m very impressed by the way he plays defensively. He’s only getting stronger.

”He’s 21 years old so like I said he’s definitely one of, should be one of the next best defensive players we have in our league.”

In his rookie season with the Lakers, Ingram was pretty helpless on the defensive end, posting a defensive rating of 116, which was the third-lowest on the team behind Jordan Clarkson and Nick Young. Last season, that number jumped to 109, which is far from elite, but it’s a sizable improvement nonetheless.

The area Ingram really improved in last season was his perimeter defending. Per Joey Ramirez of Lakers.com, Ingram contested the NBA’s sixth-most 3-point attempts per game (4.2) and caused opponents to shoot 3.5 percent below their season average when he was guarding them.

That couldn’t have anything to do with his massive 7-foot-3 wingspan, could it?

As Ingram continues to add strength to that thin frame, he’ll only get better on the defensive end. Maybe he hasn’t shown anything to suggest that he can be elite just yet, but he certainly has the tools to become that sooner rather than later.

You can follow this author on Twitter at @RadRivas.