Brandon Ingram has been consistently climbing up NBA Draft boards throughout the course of the college basketball season. Coming in as a long, lanky freshman at Duke, Ingram was seen as a long term project — maybe not for Mike Krzyzewski, but certainly for the NBA. That much was clear during the first month of the season, as Ingram struggled to find his rhythm with an average of just 10.9 points per game.
Ingram has done nothing but improve since then, however, averaging 17.1 points and 6.4 rebounds per game on the year. He has only scored under 15 points once in his last 14 outings and has scored in double figures in each of those games. The last Duke forward to put up these types of scoring games was Jabari Parker, and Ingram’s draft position is heading in a similar direction.
Ingram’s offensive skill set may not be polished at this point, but there is a lot to love about the things he has the potential to do.
Where Ingram makes his money is his ability to shoot. He is shooting 41.7 percent on 5.1 attempts from 3-point range per game this season. According to Synergy Sports, he is also shooting 50 percent on mid range shots. At 6-10 with a 7-3 wingspan, his high and quick release is impossible to defend since he is abnormally tall compared to most wing players.
The jump shot sets up the rest of his offensive game. He isn’t the most explosive player off the bounce, but he doesn’t need to be to get his own shot off because he is so long. Ingram loves to pump fake, and with his knock down shot, that can be lethal.
Ingram excels on the offensive glass as well. Ingram’s offensive rebounds per game ranks 22nd in DraftExpress.com’s 2016 NBA Draft database. Wings have an advantage crashing the offensive glass since it is difficult to box out players flying in at full speed from the perimeter. That combined with Ingram’s wingspan helps him get in the paint for tip ins off his teammate’s misses. According to Synergy, Ingram is shooting 66.7 percent on offensive rebound put backs and he ranks near the top of the country in efficiency on those shots.
Ultimately, Ingram’s physical profile is going to be what makes him the most attractive to NBA teams. You can try your best to teach players skills, but you can’t teach height and wingspan. It’s what allows him to finish well at the rim and crash the offensive glass with success. With that type of body, Ingram has the potential to excel at many different things.
While his ceiling is extremely high, there are some things that Ingram doesn’t do well.
A lot of Ingram’s problems come from his skinny frame. While his height and wingspan may make you drool, he only weighed 196 pounds when he was measured at the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit. Teams have no problem posting up their players on him, especially since Ingram has played a lot of power forward for Duke this season. For example, Notre Dame’s Bonzie Colson backs him down all the way from the perimeter on this possession.
Guards have had success driving against him, too. If you drive and lower your shoulder into him, you can knock him back a few feet and create enough separation to get a clean shot off.
His defensive potential is really confusing. There are times when Ingram looks like an elite defender, something that he is capable of being due to his length. There are other times, however, where he is undisciplined and confused. He too often leaves his feet to contest jump shots and chase blocks. Here, he unnecessarily helps down, probably chasing a come-from-behind block, and leaves his man wide open.
Ingram’s length can help him make up for it at times, but for the most part the motor and consistency isn’t there. He doesn’t have the type of elite athleticism to help him get away with this all the time. He’s not particularly fast on his feet and he doesn’t get in his stance often enough. For a player with exceptionally long legs, standing straight up can be the kiss of death. He switches out on to a guard here but gets off balance and can’t recover on the step back jumper when he stands up.
There are times where Ingram looks like a monster on that end, especially when he is locked in. This makes it even more frustrating when he gets scored on because he isn’t sitting in a stance or he is biting on a shot fake. If he wants to improve on that end, he needs to stay dialed in every possession.
This is the area that will make Ingram such a high draft pick in June.
Right now, Ingram is an elite knock down shooter who can spot-up at a high clip. Outside of that, he has room for growth, especially when handling the ball. You see flashes of it, like in the first clip above, but for the most part he is uncomfortable handling the ball. He takes his sweet time coming off the screen and doesn’t have great instincts. He doesn’t look confident reading what the big does in order to make his move, either, nor does he have a sense of where the help comes from ahead of time in order to make a pass.
Ingram has Grayson Allen open on this pick and roll, when Allen’s man helps down on the roller.
A large part of his drives to the rim are going with his right hand. Every once in a while, he’ll flash a spin move going right to left, much like Minnesota Timberwolves guard Andrew Wiggins does. It isn’t as though he can’t finish going left, he just never does.
I’ve already touched on his motor and inconsistencies on defense, but when he is locked in he can be a menace. Even if he gets beat, his length allows him to recover and rack up blocked shots.
The problem, again, is going to be his effort at putting it all together every possession. Defense is exhausting, both physically and mentally. Players at times take breaks on defense so that they can save their energy on offense. Ingram will get past that with the right coaching in the NBA. He has the tools with his length, and it’s what ultimately could make him a killer on both ends.
At this point, Ingram has joined Ben Simmons at the top of the draft as the best prospects that will declare this spring. He has worked out whatever was holding him back at the beginning of the season and has asserted himself as one of the best players in college basketball along the way.
With that said, whoever wins the No. 1 pick will have a tough choice to make. Ingram may have a lot of upside, but he is far from a finished product. He very much needs to work on his consistency, especially on the defensive end. Most players his age struggle in that area, and normally it takes coaching in the NBA to change that. It isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he could turn into an All-Star caliber player, though, since not many forwards have his combination of skill and size.
Now, it’s just a question of whether Ingram can develop those skills and put it all together.