Why Brandon Ingram is poised for a breakout season with the Lakers

Why Brandon Ingram is poised for a breakout season with the Lakers


Why Brandon Ingram is poised for a breakout season with the Lakers

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When tasked with creating the prototypical modern NBA wing, you’d want the end result to look a lot like Brandon Ingram.

With a 6-foot-11 frame (the North Carolina native reportedly grew two inches this summer), a 7-foot-3 wingspan, the dexterity to bring the ball down and the touch to spread the floor from deep, it’s no surprise Ingram went No. 2 overall in the 2016 NBA draft.

As a rookie, his overall efficiency was lacking and multiple advanced metrics detested him (especially value over replacement player, which graded him as the sixth-least productive player in the NBA last year). Still, we can’t help but enthusiastically wonder what lies ahead for the Los Angeles Lakers small forward.

In 2016-17, Ingram became just the fifth player in league history to total at least 150 assists, 50 three-pointers and 36 blocks for a season before the age of 19. The other five were Kobe Bryant, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

Finding men who can both adequately protect the painted area and function as dime-dishing floor-spacers on the offensive end is no easy feat. Yet the Lakers seem to have done just that.

And after a summer of refining the weaknesses in his game, Ingram is set to take the proverbial next step in 2017-18.

The all-important revamped jumper

It’s hard for a player to shine in this era without a serviceable three-point jumper in his arsenal.

After shooting a smoldering 41 percent on 5.4 threes per game in college, Ingram regressed mightily as a first-year professional to 29.4 percent, while attempting merely 2.4 bombs nightly.

Even with his lack of a consistent outside jumper, the Lakers’ offense was still better with its starting swingman on the floor. Per NBAWowy, Los Angeles had a 107.8 offensive rating with Ingram in the game, in contrast to a 104.8 when he sat.

The former mark would have tied the Portland Trail Blazers for the league’s 11th-highest offensive rating if prorated for the year – an impressive feat considering how young Luke Walton’s team was last season.

Even so, the Lakers need Ingram to get better from three-point range, and they are in the process of helping him do just that.

The good folks over at Silver Screen and Roll transcribed an interview with Los Angeles assistant coach Jud Buechler – one in which he talks about the work the team has put in to fix Ingram’s stroke.

“You’re going to see a big change in Brandon because he’s changed his jump shot a little bit,” Buechler said. “He’s kind of finely tuned his jump shot, made a few minor adjustments that I think are really going to help him – the rotation of his shot [especially]. Brian Keefe, our assistant coach, really did a great job with him and just kind of tweaked a few little things that Brandon bought in to.”

Although Ingram only made one three-pointer in his lone Summer League appearance, you can start to see signs of improvement from the 19-year-old.

The overall shot is a bit robotic, sure, but the follow-through and balance are textbook. And the more he continues to perfect it, the more the rest of his unique game will get to shine.

Added strength will be vital for Ingram’s development

Hampering Ingram’s effectiveness in 2016-17 was the fact he weighed under 200 pounds. Obviously, it was imperative for him to gain healthy weight this offseason in order to take the next step in his development.

Well, it appears he has done his part and put in the necessary work.

In the video, Ingram talks about the strength he has gained over the past few months – primarily in the lower body – and how much that’s going to help him complete his forays into the paint, as well as with less obvious things such as his footwork and explosiveness.

Though we don’t have much with which to judge the results of his offseason training regimen, his brief Summer League appearance did show signs of major improvements in that category.

Each of those clips show Ingram shrugging off some sort of contact, and then using his unreal length to finish with ease.

The Lakers forward wasn’t exactly poor at scoring in the painted area as a rookie in 2016-17, finishing the season with 56.1 percent accuracy (a higher rate than Kevin Love and Carmelo Anthony). But with refinement in that area, his efficiency will see an immediate rise.

A similarly skinny young stud of yester-year, Durant shot 59.4 percent from within five feet of the rim as a first-year player in 2007-08 – upping that mark to 66.2 percent in his second year.

If Ingram sees a modicum of similar improvement, this summer would be a major success for both he and Los Angeles.

Vastly underrated court vision

One facet of the 6-foot-11 wing’s game that doesn’t get enough attention is his passing.

Only three teenagers in league history standing at 6-foot-9 or above have totaled at least 150 assists in a season: Ingram, Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Mentioning the rising sophomore in the same breath as the two otherworldly superstars may be a stretch. But we shouldn’t forget that neither of the two current All-NBA athletes hit the ground running in the opening salvos of their careers. Antetokounmpo, in particular, struggled as a rookie, averaging 6.8 points per night on 41.4 percent shooting.

The Greek Freak did, however, show a distinct ability to set up teammates even as a first-year small forward, much like Ingram did this past year.

Tape does not lie, the kid can sling it.

Walton’s positionless offense will provide Ingram the invaluable opportunity to get more comfortable as a playmaker next season.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka has said so himself, going as far as to call his prized asset the team’s main end-of-game option heading into 2017-18.

“He’s gonna be our end of the game playmaker,” Pelinka said, according to Lakers Nation. “He’s gonna have to step up and make big plays on both sides of the ball. Because of Brandon’s versatility, Walton will play him at the 1, the 2, the 3 and really call on him night in, night out to make those big plays in key moments.”

Clearly, Ingram is going to have every chance to prove himself as a second-year player.

With a more reliable jumper, added core strength and the chance to show off his court vision on a nightly basis, odds are he’ll step up and establish himself as one of the league’s premier young wings in 2017-18.

You can follow Frank on Twitter @frankurbina_.

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