Brandon Ingram had the best game of his young career last Wednesday in a 123-112 preseason loss to the Warriors, finishing with 21 points, seven boards, four assists (no turnovers) and two steals. It wasn’t the numbers that were so impressive about Ingram’s game; it was his decision-making and patience as a ball-handler that gave the impression he could play a similar role as his career progresses.
Heck, maybe Ingram will act as their secondary ball handler off the bench for this season alongside Jordan Clarkson or Lou Williams. Ingram’s been impressive in his ability to take care of the ball and make the right plays offensively; he’s only had two turnovers in nearly 170 minutes on the court so far.
He has a pretty advanced dribble for a near 6’10” swingman with 7’3” arms. His lack of bulk helps him squeak through tight crevices of the defense. While he still desperately needs to add weight, Ingram has shown he can take a hit and finish while off-balance. If Luke Walton keeps his word, and Ingram comes off the bench this season, this shouldn’t be an issue against lesser wings.
But Luke Walton has recognized the quick progress the rookie has made early on. Ingram’s been a quick learner for Los Angeles and could earn a starting spot sooner than later if he keeps up this progress.
“Brandon is further along as a basketball player than I would expect any kid coming out of college after one year to be,” Walton told Mark Medina of Inside Socal. “As far as since we’ve started, he’s picking up the NBA game rather quickly.”
Ingram had a rough start to the preseason, averaging 4.8 points in his first five contests. Since then, the game has slowed down for the second overall pick; he’s reached double-figures in his last two (16.5 ppg) and has hit four of five three-pointers, showing more comfort with NBA range.
But what gets me excited about his upside is the role coach Luke Walton has used him in, and there was evidence of this going all the way back to summer league. Walton has consistently used him as a ball-handler and playmaker for the Lakers, and that was something that was a bit of a question mark coming out of school (72 assists to 72 turnovers at Duke).
Another surprising part of Ingram’s game early on has been his intensity on the defensive end of the floor. Walton has helped Ingram use his length defensively by showing him video of Andre Iguodala. So far, he’s leading Los Angeles in blocks (1.1 per game) this preseason and has used his length to make an impact in the passing lanes.
Ingram knows he has to continue to do the things that got him to this point to be successful.
“You have to do what got you here,” Ingram told the L.A. Times last week. “Keep battling, keep being aggressive, keep knocking your shots down that you know you’re going to make and keep going.”
It’s worked out pretty well for Ingram so far. He’s been able to adapt pretty quickly to both summer league and NBA preseason. While the 19-year old is still far away from a finished product, he has shown the ability to adapt, and that’s valuable for his future.
Ingram fits exactly what Walton wants for the future of the Lakers given his unexpectedly solid ball skills and playmaking potential. In a league that is always searching for 3-and-D, versatile wings, Ingram fits the bill. He should be a stud in the future and part of the next wave of All-Star swingmen. Watching him develop so quickly already, it might not take him long to get there.