The development of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram is one of the most important stories for the team this season. Even as the team continues on a surprisingly good start to the season, how Ingram looks is always one of the biggest questions each night.
So far the results have been relatively mixed for the former Duke Blue Devil. From a strictly statistical standpoint, Ingram has struggled. He is averaging only 7.7 points per game while shooting a disappointing 35.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three-point range.
In watching the games, however, Ingram is constantly finding ways to make an impact. He is rebounding the ball well, and has turned into one of the better defenders on the team thanks to his length and quickness. Head coach Luke Walton has also trusted Ingram to basically be a point guard at time. His ball-handling and high basketball IQ allows him to set up the offense and get teammates open looks.
The potential Ingram possesses is obvious, but there are things he needs to work on in order to take the next step in his development. What that is, however, isn’t so clear. So we asked our panel of experts what they believe Brandon Ingram needs to work on in order to take the next step. This is what they had to say:
Ryan Ward (@RyanWardLA): One of Ingram’s biggest issues coming into the league this year was his skinny frame and potential inability to deal with the physicality in the NBA. Although Ingram has shown promise, especially on the defensive end of the floor, he’s definitely got to work on building up his strength.
Currently, Ingram is shooting a somewhat disappointing 35.6 percent from the floor and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc. Obviously, this isn’t ideal from a player who’s best attribute is his shooting ability. It may be concerning right now, but the shot will come.
The problem right now in my opinion is his inability to finish at the basket. Ingram doesn’t seem to have the strength to get into the paint and finish. A lot of the time he gets stripped of the ball, knocked to the floor or simply struggles with the physicality in the painted area and becomes completely ineffective with opposing players manhandling him once he’s decides to drive to the basket.
Again, this is something he can work on and develop. In the meantime, I believe he should stick to improving his shooting. Once he becomes a force or a shooting threat that can’t be ignored, the paint will open up and drives to the basket may become something he is more comfortable with.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand): I still think the main thing Brandon Ingram need to do is gain weight, but since that is done over time I think right now what he needs to improve on is his mid range and long range shooting.
With his 6’9″ frame and long wingspan, Ingram can get a shot up over just about anybody. He has had a lot of open looks so far this season he just needs to start knocking down those shots.
Right now he is shooting 35.6 percent from the field and 28.6 percent from three-point range. If he can get both of those up by about 10 percent then he will be incredibly tough to guard as defenders will have to respect his shot, making it easier for him to go by them and get to the basket which he ultimately wants to do.
Ingram proved he can be a good shooter when he was at Duke, shooting 44.2 percent overall and 41 percent on threes, so he just needs to find that range in the NBA and I think he will become a more complete offensive player. He has already proved that he is a more than capable defender.
Trevor Lane (@Trevor_Lane): Brandon Ingram has shown surprising versatility in his first month as an NBA player. He has become the bench mob’s de facto point guard, which few anticipated coming out of college, and he has already proven to be a plus defender on the perimeter.
However, after a successful year at Duke in which he hit 41 percent from three, Ingram was billed as a shooter during the draft, but thus far that ability hasn’t translated to the pros.
He is shooting just 36 percent from the field currently and 29 percent from three, which gives defenses all the incentive they need to sag off of him. As expected, Ingram has struggled with his finishing at the rim due to his slim frame and hits only 40 percent from within 10 feet of the basket. That number will improve as he ages and develops, but his wide-open catch-and-shoot finishing needs to get better asap, as he is currently hitting just 27 percent in those situations.
It’s rare for a player to shoot worse when he is wide open compared to when he is guarded, so we should expect to see this change as the season goes on, but it’s the biggest immediate area of concern in what has otherwise been a solid rookie campaign for Ingram.
Corey Hansford (@TheeCoreyH): A week ago I would have said that Ingram has to improve his aggression as he was a bit too timid. However, he has recently shown more of a willingness to attack the basket, even if the shots aren’t going down yet.
Obviously his shooting numbers need to improve, but I think that’s just a matter of time. Ingram is getting good looks both on catch-and-shoot opportunities and off the dribble. At this stage, his ability to create good opportunities for himself is arguably more important than simply making shots.
Likewise, Ingram adding strength is something that will come in time. Forcing that too quickly could have an adverse affect on Ingram’s development.
That’s why the most important thing for Ingram in my opinion is for him to continue to improve his ball-handling ability.
Ingram’s versatility is what makes him special. While he is a good dribbler, there have been times where defenders have been able to cause issues for him. Increasing his comfort with his handle will help alleviate that issue, while also giving him more ways to create space for his own shot as well as setting up others.
I truly believe Ingram’s shot will begin to fall as long as he keeps getting the looks he is, so figuring out more ways to get those looks will take him to a whole other level.
Eric Avakian (@EAvakian5): After a shaky start to the season, unfortunate circumstances have caused Brandon Ingram to see more minutes. Injuries to D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Nick Young have Luke Walton altering the rotation. In all this mess, Ingram has flourished when seeing some consistent minutes.
While seeing progress in his jump shot, Ingram is playing through contact on his drives to the rim. In order for Ingram to take his next step, I think two encouraging steps need to happen.
Firstly, Ingram needs to continue driving hard to the rim. This can either mean using a chance of pace, or using his youth and agility to drive past defenders. His length allows him to finish in different positions, with a versatile, soft touch around the rim.
Secondly, Ingram needs to pick and choose his spots to be aggressive on offense. With Russell and Young both out, the backcourt scoring falls mainly into the lap of Lou Williams. Although Ingram isn’t considered a guard, his ball handling duties and set up of the offense presents him in favorable defensive matchups. He has a spaced floor to take slower players to the basket and can rotate over to the post against smaller guards.
It seems as though Ingram hasn’t had many problems defensively in his transition to the NBA. He has a high defensive IQ that allows him to keep up with the pace. The improvements he needs to make (besides obviously gaining some weight) need to come on the offensive end in a time where the offense is lacking points, especially in the first quarter.