For as well as Brandon Ingram played in the NCCA Tournament, he certainly hasn’t been getting some of the respect he deserves. Ben Simmons has yet again taken over the spotlight with rumors swirling about his desire to force his way to the Lakers and videos surfacing of him working on his jump shot. Simmons obviously has no power to decide his fate, but these developments had overshadowed Ingram’s draft story until recently. Though Ingram should still be considered for number one pick, it seems all but certain that Ben Simmons will be chosen by the Sixers. This will leave the Lakers with the 6’9″ wing from Kinston, North Carolina. In this article, I will determine whether Brandon Ingram is overrated or underrated.
In case you haven’t seen it, check out my Brandon Ingram scouting report:
Even though I went in-depth on Brandon Ingram in my scouting report, there is no problem with digging a bit deeper.
Playmaking is easily the most underrated aspect of Ingram’s game. People see what he can do when he scores, but he doesn’t seem like much of a passer. Most of that has to do with the flashy passes that Simmons can pull off. When comparing Simmons’ playmaking to Ingram’s, it is no contest. Ingram isn’t bad by any means, it just serves as a testimony to how good of a passer Simmons is. As a playmaker, Ingram can dribble the ball up the court and drive with ease. He doesn’t have a handle as smooth or fluid as Kevin Durant, but he has no problems creating for himself. He protects his dribble well, as illustrated by his rate of 2.4 TOV per 40 minutes he averaged in college. Although he isn’t the strongest guy and can be knocked off-balance fairly easily, he can still get by players with his handle. His passing is rarely talked about, but the freshman had a good ability to hit players right where they needed to be. His strength doesn’t allow him to throw bullet passes, but they hit their marks. He surprisingly ran pick and rolls quite well. The 7’3” wingspan allows him to pass over most players without the defender getting a hand on the ball. His height and length are both huge factors in his ability to see over the defense and read which pass he should make. His vision allows him to get a bit flashy when the defense reacts and a player is left open. His handle and passing allows him to be a threat, not only when he is catching and shooting the ball, but also when attacking the lane and looking to pass the ball to create offense. Here are some examples:
Defense: Day One/Future-Mixed
Many of you may disagree, but I think that Ingram’s frame will let him down. In the NBA, everyone is much stronger than he is, and strength is what helps players succeed early on. His height and length will help, but expectations from him early should be lowered. What he will be day one, however, will not be the final product. As his body matures, so will his game. His fundamentals will improve, and so will his strength. He will be able to defend stronger players more effectively and could become a legitimate two-way player. Ingram’s college season showed flashes of this, with him picking off passing lanes and getting blocks when helping or simply closing out. In fact, I may be ready to say that Ingram will become a better defender than scorer. That wingspan and his quick feet will be hard to beat, especially once he adds muscle. The current issue with his frame, apart from getting pushed around in the post, is that he often becomes unbalanced. This causes him to fail at moving his feet quickly enough to stay with his opponent, allowing the player to draw a foul or finish at the rim. His potential revolves around his ability to add muscle without hindering his current abilities. If weight is added and everything else remains, Ingram will become a better defender than a scorer.
For a guy that has a 7’3” wingspan with a 6’9” body, it is interesting to say that Ingram’s length is underrated. It is one thing to have length, but it is another thing to know how to use it, and boy, does Brandon know how to use it. For him, it’s all about knowing what he has and what his limitations are. He knows he can’t post up as much as he wants to, or constantly guard more physical players. Even when he gets into these types of situations, he manages to make the most out of them. His toughness allows for his length to become a bigger factor. Even when a bigger player is on him, he competes and attempts to do what he can. He doesn’t get backed down too deep into the post, and if the big man settles for a hook or lay-up attempt, his length bothers it and sometimes even blocks it. When a teammate is beaten off the dribble, Ingram slides into help defense and contests or blocks the shot. On offense, he doesn’t need to back down a player. He can pull up or fade away without much of a problem, since he can easily shoot over his opponent. His length makes certain shots easier. He can shoot over a defender right up on him and make it when other players might get blocked or miss. That is the type of tough cover that Ingram is, but since the NBA is longer and faster, Ingram will require more strength to be more successful. Length doesn’t make or break a player, but if someone has it, then the correct use of that advantage can separate the good players from the great ones.
Isolation shot creation: Slightly Overrated
Another hot take here, but Ingram’s isolation shot creation is getting too much praise. Don’t get me wrong, Ingram will become a great isolation player that can become pretty difficult to guard. Right now though, his isolations won’t be as productive as expected. Similar to D’Angelo Russell, Ingram will get hot and look amazing, flashing all the potential at once. These stretches will make me look dumb, but for the most part, I think he will struggle to create a bit. He will get pushed around and become off-balanced more than people expect. If he gets unbalanced on offense, it allows the defender to stay in front and cut off the drive, leaving him with only his jump shot. That makes him easier to defend. The problem is that the NBA is so fast and strong that Ingram might struggle to settle in early on. He will be able to score using his length, but his limited strength will cause problems. Even so, if he gets drafted by the Lakers, Luke Walton’s offense revolves around ball movement, and isolations will be few and far between. His shooting will already make him an asset in this system, so his isolation struggles won’t be an issue.
First step: Underrated
Having the jump on a player is a very important first step to attacking on offense. Being able to get by someone while also being able to shoot over them gives the defender two things to worry about. Most players will either shoot or attack the basket, but those that can do both are already a mismatch. It opens up many options for the offensive player and the defense can only react. This is what makes Ingram so deadly. He can get by a defender with a quick first step followed by some long strides, taking him to the rim in an instant. His second option is to jab a few times and pull up. His third option is to post up or try to get a closer pull up shot. He can also reset the play, but that’s boring. Ingram has all of these moves in his offensive arsenal. His first step doesn’t get much attention, but it certainly helps when he attempts to be aggressive. Lakers fans will come to love it.
Rebounding – Underrated
For a player of his length and size, Ingram doesn’t get enough credit for being a great rebounder. He competes against other players when he is in the middle of the fray, and is tough enough to battle for the ball. Most of the rebounds he gets are reaching up and grabbing the ball with his long arms. He does make an effort to box out, but the stronger players will be able to get him out of position. Still, that standing reach should allow him to average 6-7 rebounds early on. What makes his rebounding so deadly is that he can get the ball and push it very effectively. He can get by players and has a feel for when to kick it out to shooters. Don’t forget that he can also rise up and finish with the best of them. This is one of the few aspects of Ingram’s game that compares favorably to Kevin Durant. Luke is going to want to run, and Ingram will help the Lakers pick up the pace.
Toughness – Underrated
Ingram is scrawny and doesn’t seem physically threatening as a player. That is what draws the Kevin Durant comparison, since they were both long scorers that had a skinny frame. Kevin Durant is one of the best, if not the best, scorer of all time because he is unguardable. Ingram can do this too, but not as effectively as Durant yet. There is a difference between being physically strong and being flat-out tough. Tough is exactly what Ingram is. He plays tougher than his frame dictates, and it helps him in every way. He absorbs contact well, and doesn’t shy away from it. Apart from that, his reluctance to not give up on rebounds and loose balls silences the critics. You have to be tough if you want to lead a six man rotation as far as he did in the NCAA Tournament. Even in the face of defeat, he always kept competing. He can adjust his shot against bigger defenders. When engaged as a rebounder, he can get to the ball fast and at its highest point. This is why Ingram is such a sleeper. They see his frame, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.
Projection – Underrated
Brandon Ingram is likely going to be a Laker. People have underestimated Ingram since he was in high school. Skal Labissiere and Ben Simmons took all the hype, while Ingram locked himself in the gym and worked on improving his game. For a prospect, Ingram has already shown the ability to improve his game. He improved his playmaking, added some muscle, and has worked on polishing his defensive fundamentals. Brandon Ingram is a stud. He can become an elite scorer with his perimeter shooting and handle that allows him to create for himself. His weight is a bit of an issue, but Brandon is working hard to ease that concern. Don’t take it from me, here are some quotes from his Draft Express interview:
How much strength and conditioning do you do right now? Is weightlifting a priority right now?
“It’s definitely a priority right now. It is one of my deficiencies right now going to the next level, but we know that it is going to take time. We are doing what we can and that’s all that we can do right now.”
How much weight have you been able to gain since the season ended?
“In April (speaking on weight gained recently), probably 7-10 pounds. I think that being up here (New York) and being around food and around basketball and not having to work at school has been pretty good for me. It’s (basketball) kind of my job right now, so I’m trying to do anything I can to put on weight and perfect my game.”
I know that it is early, but Ingram sounds like a hard working kid who genuinely cares about basketball and wants to become the best player that he can. If his tournament run didn’t sell you on him, then nothing will. He isn’t just a shooter or just a scorer. Brandon Ingram is a well-rounded player that carries plenty of potential on both sides of the ball. He does all of the things that are needed in the modern NBA and is a good fit for Luke Walton’s system. He has not only created a debate about who should be the number one player, but has done it in a way that does not receive the national attention it deserves. I think that Brandon Ingram will be a star in this league. Super-stardom will be determined by how he refines his game. Ingram isn’t perfect, but then again, nobody is. He is the prospect that quietly goes about the process while others get much more attention. Many people have been sleeping on him, and that is one of the biggest mistakes the NBA could make going forward.
*All stats from Basketball Reference and quotes from Draft Express*