What Does The Future Hold For Brandon Ingram?

Brandon Ingram’s jump after the All-Star break gives the Los Angeles Lakers hope for an even better sophomore campaign.

When the Los Angeles Lakers made Brandon Ingram the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft last summer, patience was the key.

After a solid season at Duke University, Ingram was seen as one of the top three prospects, alongside Croatian forward Dragan Bender and Louisiana State forward Ben Simmons. Ingram’s size, shooting and upside made him a tantalizing pick for the Lakers’ brass.

But again, patience was the key for Ingram and the Lakers. Ingram was 190 pounds and despite all his upside, didn’t have the tools right away to be the two-way player many thought he could be.

Midway through the regular season, it seemed like Ingram was light years away from reaching that status. On one of the worst teams in the league, Ingram was struggling, to the point of being one of the worst players in the league.

Outside of getting consistent playing time, the only saving grace for Ingram was that his fellow rookie classmates were just as bad, if not worse.

Jaylen Brown was lucky enough to serve as a role player on an excellent Boston team, but Bender played on a bad Phoenix team and missed significant time with an ankle injury.

Kris Dunn, expected to take over for Ricky Rubio at some point this season, lost time to second-year guard Tyus Jones.

Jamal Murray was fine as a shooter, Buddy Hield flashed when he moved from New Orleans to Sacramento and Marquese Chriss flashed all the tools, but has a long way to go as a combo forward.

It gave Ingram some time to continue to grow without massive criticism. In turn, Los Angeles saw an increase in Ingram’s minutes in the second half of the season and saw an increase in scoring production.

Brandon Ingram Pre and Post-ASG (Via Basketball-Reference.com)
Ingram Pre-ASG 27.7 MPG 8.0 points 4.1 rebounds 1.9 assists 45.2 TS% -6.5 +/-
Ingram Post-ASG 32.2 MPG 13.2 points 3.9 rebounds 2.5 assists 51.7 TS% -10.4 +/-

The first thing that should be said is that Ingram still struggled, as evidenced in his true shooting percentage and plus-minus numbers. He actually shot worse from three, shooting 26 percent from beyond the arc.

His defense never took a step forward, finishing with a minus-0.8 DBPM and minus-2.96 DRPM – good for 78th in the league among small forwards.

His outside shooting is also a major cause for concern. It’s not just the 29 percent shooting from beyond the arc, but the 62 percent shooting from the free throw line and 32 percent from 10-16 feet.

Even at his lone season at Duke, Ingram took less than 200 attempts from three and although he shot 41 percent, there’s still a question of whether he can actually shoot.

In all of the bad, the fact that Ingram could create is the most intriguing thing to me. Ingram finished with 166 assists and 116 turnovers. Ingram flashed the ability to create off the dribble and create in the pick and roll is huge for his overall game.

He wasn’t great in pick and roll play — 0.59 PPP and 16th percentile as a pick-and-roll ball handler via NBA.com — but he showed flashes.

It’s early for comparisons or labels, but the most intriguing comparison for Ingram is Khris Middleton.

As one of the more underrated players in the league, Middleton has improved each year, going from a formidable 3-and-D talent to an all-around guard who can defend both wing positions, space the floor and now, create for others at an elite level.

It’s very early in the process for Ingram as a player, but there are some positives and negatives. He’s the archetype you want — a long-limbed wing player with feel to create for himself and for others. His shooting is still a question mark with poor free-throw shooting for two straight years.

Ingram’s defensive value is also a question mark after a horrendous rookie season.

If he can take a step forward as a player — get stronger and show the ability to defend several positions, space the floor at a better rate — than he can be back on track as a former No. 2 overall pick and a key piece in the Los Angeles Lakers’ rebuild.

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