The Los Angeles Lakers were thrilled to be able to select Duke product Brandon Ingram with the second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft this past summer. The lanky forward has an intriguing skill set and physical profile that could make him exactly what the team needs to rebuild their struggling franchise.
However, it won’t be easy for the barely 19-year-old Ingram to transition to the NBA. Evan Daniels of FoxSports.com sat down with legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, and they discussed the challenges that his former protege will encounter as he wades into the deep waters of the NBA:
“The adjustment physically in the pros will take a little bit of time. Also, you know, he had the ball. In the pros, a lot of times, you don’t have the ball and you have to do something as soon as you get it. I think that will be an adjustment for him because he could really be a guard. We had him in a position where he could bring it up the court or play against the four. We always tried to take advantage of matchups. I’m not sure that he’ll be afforded that opportunity right away, if ever, in the pros. So there will be a period of adjustment for him, but I think he’ll do fine.”
Coach K’s comments are interesting for a variety of reasons. As most have noted, he mentions that Ingram may struggle to adjust to the physicality of the professional game, indirectly referencing his slim physique. However, it’s the second notion, that Ingram needs the ball in his hands, that may be the most thought-provoking, and it does have a ring of truth to it.
During the preseason, we saw Ingram seemingly coast through some games, failing to make much of an impact on the offensive end. Lakers’ coach Luke Walton somewhat successfully remedied this by putting the ball in Ingram’s hands and essentially using him as a point guard, setting up the offense. The results have been promising, as Ingram has looked much more at ease on the court, and even produced a massive 21 point, seven rebound, four assist performance against the Golden State Warriors.
While it seems unlikely that Ingram will ever be a full-time point-forward, it does appear that Coach K is correct in his assessment that he will have to adjust to playing off the ball, and that Walton made the correct adjustment to help his young player by giving him some playmaking responsibility.