Since his arrival to the NBA, the often subdued demeanor Brandon Ingram has displayed off the floor has proven to be not all that different from his actual game. The abnormally tall and lanky Los Angeles Lakers wing does not rely on an overly exciting offensive repertoire, nor does he mirror the players he often is associated with all that well.
Although Ingram is listed at 6’9” with an intriguingly long 7’3” wingspan, Ingram’s dribble drives do not aesthetically or effectively come close to the overwhelming tarantula-like functionality that Giannis Antetokounmpo opposes nightly. And while Ingram has proven to be able to rise up and can jumpers with regularity, he unfortunately has not sniffed the 3-point accuracy or mere volume (Ingram is in the 1st percentile among wings in 3-point frequency/11 percent) that Kevin Durant has achieved in his illustrious career.
But this is okay. Both Antetokounmpo and Durant are perennial MVP contenders, the elite of the NBA’s elite. Ingram, who is still only 21, continues to flash the potential that has drawn comparisons to such greats in the first place — in his own, and unique way.
Almost hidden away amidst the latest on and off-the-court drama for the Lakers has been a dazzling stretch from Ingram. In his last 15 games, the 2016 second-overall pick is averaging 18.5 points, five rebounds and 3.8 assists with a 58.6 true-shooting percentage (up from his season 53.8 percent average).
However, the manner in which Ingram has operated and been utilized during this span has not drastically deviated though from what has been the norm for him this season. This has played a role in his hot streak going overlooked, but it shouldn’t be.
Of Ingram’s last 200 field-goal attempts, 178 have come within the restricted area, the paint (non-restricted area) and his old reliable: From midrange. Although unusual in the 3-point reliant modern NBA, this is right along with his career shot profile. On the season, Ingram has bought up all of the property within 19 feet of the hoop like he were stacking hotels on a Monopoly board.
What this means, functionally, is that this isn’t a random uptick in 3-point makes that’s leading to Ingram’s improved efficiency. He’s getting better at the things he’s been doing.
According to Cleaning the Glass, 89 percent of Ingram’s shot frequency this year have come at the rim (42 percent) and from midrange (47 percent). Those percentages rank in the 82nd and 93rd percentiles among wings, respectively.
The big difference maker that has led to his recent string of strong performances though has been the jarring uptick in efficiency.
As the data above implies, Ingram has absolutely carved up defenses around and at the rim in his last 15 contests in thanks to slight alterations in his usage.
On the season, Ingram has mostly been the table-setter in terms of how his offensive looks are generated, as only 41 percent of his makes this season have been assisted, which is on the lower end among wings this season. To compare, his teammate Kyle Kuzma has been assisted on 69 percent of his makes.
Making this latest stretch more impressive is that Ingram has improved in putting himself in a better position to be successful by actively moving and reacting off the ball. This trend — which began prior to LeBron James returning to the starting lineup and has continued since — has directly correlated to easier, and assisted looks.
Glancing back at the span between the team’s opening night contest against the Blazers to January ninth reveals that Ingram registered only 11 cuts and alley-oop attempts. In only 15 games since then, Ingram has already attempted 14 such shot types, according to the NBA’s tracking data.
Ingram’s recent improved movement off-ball in the Lakers’ offense has not been the only area of growth for the 21-year-old, as he has continued a season-long trend of converting his midrange tries.
I know what you might be thinking: As James Harden and Daryl Morey have taught us, midrange attempts and professional basketball in 2019 is usually a major faux pas. Yet, as Ingram’s aforementioned high frequency of midrange looks demonstrate, he seemingly doesn’t care about sticking out.
And although threes, dunks and free-throws may in fact be more mathematically viable in determining wins/losses, it should be clarified that not all midrange attempts are the same or undesirable.
Despite the fact that 47 percent of Ingram’s total shot profile this season has come from the midrange (a career-high) Ingram has cut down his dreaded long-two’s by five percent this year when compared to his sophomore numbers.
In turn, Ingram has upped his short-mid attempts (4 feet to free-throw line extended) by a whopping ten percent, a huge reason why his overall midrange efficiency has jumped seven percent this season, and is sitting at a current career-best of 42 percent.
Of late, Ingram has added an effective wrinkle to his toolkit that has thus far yielded startlingly promising results — a fadeaway jumper.
Ingram’s turnaround, swaying fadeaway has been one of the clearest and most effective ways he has leveraged his height and length advantage as a professional to date.
Now playing shooting guard, Ingram often finds himself with some type of physical advantage, and even if he does not, is still able to rise over his defenders with good results.
On the season, Ingram has converted his 67 fadeaway attempts at a 50 percent clip. 27 of those looks have come in this latest impressive stretch alone, a period of time in which he’s canned his fades at an eye-popping 70.4 percent rate. Morey himself would applaud this output.
Contextually, Ingram’s offensive surge could not have come at a better time for a Lakers team who continues to falter on and off the floor.
Los Angeles has lost seven of their last ten games, and is currently tenth in the Western Conference playoff hunt with a suddenly dwindling number of games left.
To make matters worse, Ingram, like several other of the Lakers’ young core, was the subject of tons of trade rumors leading up to the trade deadline, which has seemingly impacted team morale and play. However, as this recent stretch has showed, Ingram has remained composed, and even thrived under these external factors, which is far more impressive feat than his boxscore numbers.
Ingram may in fact never reach the towering expectations that come with being the No. 2 pick in any draft, or come close to the lofty comparisons to the league’s most elite players that have been lobbed at him over the years, but he has shown glimpses of something hidden underneath the surface that occasionally shines through and offers up hope.
That alone, is worth investing in, and investigating if it can become Ingram’s new norm.