Brandon Ingram’s debut was pretty close to what was expected. His 7-3 wingspan caused nightmares for the Pelicans front court. His mid-range shooting fit within his skill level and reminded everyone there was a reason Ingram could have been the number one pick in last month’s draft.
There was one play that made the Las Vegas crowd, a pro-Lakers gathering, go crazy. Ingram took the ball on the wing, faked his defender. A hesitation dribble later, he meandered through the lane, past his defender and then a two handed dunk before the Pelicans could react. On another play, he dribbled into traffic and passed out of it for a D’Angelo Russell three. More than once, he grabbed the defensive rebound, dribbled upcourt and initiated the offense. He is the rare player who can handle four positions and he is only 18 years old.
The Rookie of the Year label will come early and often. Ingram is on a team without a legitimate star. He will get plenty of opportunities to score and because he comes into the league with a proven skill ala Allen Iverson, his bread and butter won’t fail him when he is under the most stress.
Where Ingram sets himself apart from a lot of young NBA players is his ability to defend. He is so long, it causes trouble for offensive players. It’s en vogue to compare him to Kevin Durant because of their size and their thinness but Ingram has more of an Anthony Davis trajectory.
Like Davis, he blocks shots. Like Davis, he rebounds. And he scores in the mid-range and has one wrinkle Davis doesn’t have, the three point shot.
Fitting for Ingram is his swag when he has the ball in his hands. Though a quiet temperament, his game is all watch me do this. In a twist of irony, Ingram may not even know how talented he really is.
A complication early on is that veteran Luol Deng is on the roster and Luke Walton will have to decide how much of the fire does he want to throw Ingram into. But anything less than 25 minutes will be a travesty and regurgitate Byron Scott memories.
After three years of misery and miserable players, the Lakers know what they have in Ingram. Jim Buss was all smiles in Las Vegas. Whenever he was on camera, the hated Buss was repeatedly booed and he took it in stride, at one point cheering his enemies. He can afford to be happy in July, even if he is probably going to lose his job in 2017.
It’s been two decades since the Lakers had an 18 year old this talented. They have finally turned the page, not just from the Kobe Bryant era but their sad, pathetic history is seemingly behind them as they enable a team of young and talented scorers and defenders.
The new look D’Angelo Russell wasn’t worthy of his traditional hate either. Slimmer and much more confident, he fed the ball to Ingram and also looked for his own shot. For Russell, summer league isn’t much competition. He has the advantage over rookies and players looking for a team.
Russell continually said Ingram isn’t trying very hard and look what he’s doing: he’s blocking shots and scoring 12 points and beating players off the dribble. Imagine what his game will be when he tries hard?
Rookie of the Year. That’s what.
photo via llananba