3D wing, Shot Creator

Brandon Ingram Scouting Report

CONTEXT

18-year-old Brandon Ingram was unimpressive over the first month of the season, which was expected of a teenager just adjusting to a new context.

He got comfortable quickly, though, proceeding to score 128 points on 89 shots from the field in December. Ingram is averaging 21.4 points per 40 minutes on 56.2% effective field percentage on the season.

Sure enough, he is now speculated as a potential candidate to be picked first in next year’s draft.

As a six-foot-nine perimeter player, Ingram is perfect for this new Era of positional versatility the NBA is looking for. He possesses the combination of size and athletic ability that presents a dilemma for the opponent, regarding whether it should guard him with a smaller or bigger player. That dilemma should get even more complex in the future as his body develops. Ingram only weighs 190 pounds at this point, which takes a couple of options off the table as far as fully taking advantage of his size.

He has, nonetheless, already shown a skill-set that is very polished for a teenager and Duke has put him in a lot of situations to try maximizing his versatility. Ingram has attacked a set defense from the perimeter, taken smaller players into the mid-post, sprinted around baseline screens, come off pindown screens, caught the ball for short isolations in the high post and screened for pick-and-pops.

SCORING

Ingram has proven to be an excellent one-on-scorer at this point, able to get his own shot against a set defense thanks to the combination of his fluidity, length and the touch in his shot. He prefers driving left and doesn’t blow by opponents with frequency but can consistently get around them thanks to his long strides – able to go from the corner to rim in three steps and a couple of dribbles.

Ingram has also shown the ability to get to the rim in isolation with a spin move, displaying impressive coordination moving in tight spaces. He is quick going side-to-side and has a suddenness in change of direction that forces the opponent into hesitation. His handle is solid for someone his age and he has not yet dealt with opponents aggressively trying to strip the ball from him when he is on the move, an issue tall dribble drivers must navigate. His 8.6% turnover rate is extremely impressive in the context of his 24.5% usage rate.

He can attack the rim with explosiveness, proving able to finish with power elevating out of one foot. But far more impressive has been his body control and his touch on non-dunk finishes. Ingram has flashed a Euro-step to get around help defenders stepping into the front of the basket and a floater to finish over length in the in-between area. According to hoop-math, he has converted 64.4% of his 45 shots at the rim.

That aggressiveness seeking the basket (4.2 shots at the rim per 36 minutes) in isolation or attacking closeouts has also netted him some trips to the foul line. Ingram is averaging 5.7 foul shots per 40 minutes, which is good but not great. And he is not taking full advantage of such opportunities, converting just 61.1% of his 54 free throws through the first 13 games, which is odd considering Ingram is a good shooter.

His mechanics are clean, he elevates with great balance and his release is quick. Ingram has hit 36.2% of his 58 three-point shots and 47.2% of his 53 two-point jump-shots, not only spotting up on the weak-side as a floor spacer but also flashing the ability to shoot on the move – pulling up off the bounce, coming off pindown screens and even working as the screener on pick-and-pops.

He fully extends himself, which together with his length leads to a high release point in his shot that makes it tough for opponents to contest effectively. Ingram can also take advantage of that ability to shoot over defenders by taking smaller wings into the post. His lack of strength has hurt him in a couple of matchups, with opponents pushing him out of deep position, and he is not looking to get physical with power moves but a couple of bumps is all he needs to create enough separation for a short turnaround pull-up that often tends to be a good look.

PASSING

Ingram has not looked to facilitate offense with his back to the basket, and that has also been the case in other instances of his game. He is not much of a passer at this point of his development.

Ingram has handled the ball on the pick-and-roll from time-to-time, and his height gives him a good vantage point against traps and doubles, but he mostly looks to attack the middle of the floor or pull-up from the mid-range against standard coverage.

Ingram has been a willing passer in transition and when the defense collapses in a way that makes it hard to miss someone open, but he has not shown much in the way of passing instincts for now – assisting on just 8.7% of Duke’s scores in his 381 minutes on the floor.

DEFENSE

But the biggest gap in Ingram’s game is his individual defense. He defends flat-footed, quite often not getting in his stance. His closeouts are also an issue, as opponents have been able to go around him off the dribble and attack the basket with a lot of ease.

That’s a shame because Ingram can be a really effective defender when engaged. He lacks the strength in his frame to contain dribble penetration through contact but has a nine-foot-one standing reach that makes it extremely tough for opponents to shoot over him comfortably.

His length and quickness can also make him a very impactful weak-side defender. Ingram has a seven-foot-three wingspan to shut down passing lanes and has proven that every pass anywhere close to him is in danger of being deflected.

ingram_wingspan

He has played as a big some, as Mike Krzyzewski has preferred going small when one of Amile Jefferson or Marshall Plumlee rests. Ingram has shown the explosiveness to play above the rim as a shot blocker, crashing in as a help-defender but also recovering when he’s blown by way high in the perimeter. His long strides help him cover ground quickly and he can leap off the floor in a pinch.

Ingram is only an OK rebounder at this point, lacking the physicality to body up opponents but possessing quickness to chase the ball off the rim as Plumlee and Jefferson do the dirty work. He’s collected 13.6% of opponents’ misses, which is just slightly above average but nonetheless states he can be an asset helping finish possessions on that end.

Despite his struggles in individual defense, Duke is allowing just 96.5 points per 100 possessions with Ingram in the lineup, according to basketball-reference, which is the second best mark on the team among rotation players.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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Pure Passer, Shot Creator, Tall Passer

Ben Simmons Scouting Report

(First posted at Upside & Motor)

CONTEXT

Ben Simmons is a point guard.

But because of his size (six-foot-10, 240 pounds), he’ll probably forever be misplaced as a wing or a big.

Thankfully, Louisiana State coach Johnny Jones has at least found a middle ground. Jones has played Simmons as a point guard on offense and a big man on defense. He has then excelled on one end but been exposed on the other, and LSU has been mediocre (they will likely miss the NCAA Tournament), raising concerns over how much of a transcending talent is Simmons really and how exactly can you build the right team around him.

PASSING

His best skill is still his passing, and we have been able to witness his brilliance as a shot creator a lot more in college than in high school.

Montverde used Simmons mostly as a post player in the half-court, looking to leverage his size with his back to the basket. He has done so some in college as well, though mostly against lesser matchups. Simmons primarily looks to assist cutters and spot-up shooters from the low post, although has also shown some ability to act as a scorer when the opponent leaves him in an island against these lesser matchups – which was the case in his 43-point performance against North Florida.

But Louisiana State started the season going the opposite way, designing an offense that relied on Simmons to handle the ball on the perimeter with three and sometimes four three-point shooters spotting-up around him.

In the half-court, Simmons is almost always looking to create a corner three-point shot. He has shown great feel for taking advantage of a collapsing defense and his height helps him see over the top. But he has proven able to do so without even needing to attack off the dribble. Simmons is very perceptive when he’s surveying the defense and will often whip a pass to the corner as soon as he notices an opponent easing his stance for a split-second or focusing a little too soon on taking an extra step inside to help crowd the interior on a potential dribble drive, no bending the defense needed. He does so always on target, with the shooter receiving the ball in his shooting pocket, in position to pull the trigger as quickly as he can before the closeout.

According to basketball-reference, Simmons has assisted on 31.4 percent of Louisiana State’s scores in his 372 minutes, while only turning it over on 13.1 percent of the time he’s on the floor, which is quite low in the context of his 25 percent usage rate. And that assist rate should actually be higher. The Tigers have hit just 33 percent of their three-point shots at this point, despite enjoying good open looks arranged by Simmons.

OUTSIDE SHOOTING

Creating such good looks for himself has been a little more challenging, though.

As you must have read it or watched it by now, Simmons is a notoriously poor shooter. Not only that, he is a remarkably unwilling outside shooter. According to hoop-math, Simmons has missed 67 percent of his 62 two-point jump-shots. And that’s even a bit misleading, since most of these two-point “jump-shots” are actually floaters, turnaround hooks or short-range toss-ups.

As far as actual jump-shots go, Simmons goes to extreme lengths not to attempt them. There was a play in the game against Marquette where Tim Quarterman drove and drew help from Simmons’ man, leaving him open for a potential catch-and-shoot 15-footer but Simmons didn’t even look at the basket, immediately dribbling his way out of the arc and resetting.

Whenever he has attempted an outside shot, one is then able to see why Simmons has no confidence in his jump-shot. He sets a short base, then elevates with little fluidity, very mechanically, to the point it seems like a push-up shot, with absolutely no touch.

Because of that, opponents have felt very comfortable sagging way off him. Henry Ellenson stood at the foul line when Simmons dribbled outside the arc. He was also able to double Quarterman aggressively on a pick-and-pop where Simmons screened and then stood still beyond the arc. In the game against Houston, Danrad Knowles backed off a couple of steps when Simmons caught the ball in the middle of the Cougars’ zone.

CLOSE-RANGE SCORING

With every opponent giving him a cushion, he has been unable to blow past most defenders in isolation and then attack the basket with explosiveness. He is quick and can go side-to-side to force the opponent off balance but when these defenders have managed to keep him in front or forced him to the side of the basket, Simmons has often tried awkward-looking floaters and short-range toss-ups with his right hand, instead of stepping-back and pulling-up from the in-between area.

In fact, despite having a strong preference for going left, which is his strong hand, Simmons more often than not attempts finishing with his right hand. As explained by SI’s Luke Winn, Simmons feels he can draw more fouls that way, as his large frame invites contact.

And he’s been correct so far, as he’s averaged 7.7 free throws per 40 minutes – with a quarter of his points on the season coming from the charity stripe. Simmons has converted 73% of his foul shots so far, appearing to be more comfortable with his mechanics in this instance, which allows you to hold out hope that he will one day develop into a passable live-ball jump-shooter.

As a live-ball finisher, I honestly think Simmons’ touch is only OK on those off-balance driving semi-layups. Feels like he leaves a lot of and-one opportunities on the table. He is also so-so from the post, where he’s almost always looking for a turnaround, right-handed jump-hook after a couple of bumps with the opponent or a face-up drive, since he isn’t the sort of player who looks to get physical on power moves and the turnaround, jump-shot isn’t an option at all for him.

But whenever Quarterman or Josh Gray have created something in the half-court on their own, Simmons has proven to have good hands to catch the ball on the move via cuts or diving down the lane out of the pick-and-roll. Though he has blown some easy lay-ins at rim level, it’s hard to argue with his 76% shooting on 75 attempts at the basket so far. Despite not always relying on his explosiveness, Simmons has flashed the ability to finish with power, leaping out of one foot or two feet, best seen in transition – which is where he excels the best.

Simmons is terrific on grab-and-go’s, collecting the defensive board and sprinting up the court to ignite the offense. He can then feed a runout with an on the money outlet pass, run the lane and play above the rim as a target for lobs, pass ahead and then receive back on the secondary break to attack a scrambling defense or change gears in the open court and blow by everyone to finish at the rim.

REBOUNDING

Those open court runs are fueled by Simmons’ prolificacy on the defensive glass – where he has collected 28.4 percent of opponents’ misses. Some of it is due to positioning – Simmons plays center quite a bit, always spotted close to the rim, on lineups where his tallest teammate is six-foot-six. But he has also shown some improvement from high school in this skill, as he used to rely quite a bit on Noah Dickerson’s boxout prowess at Montverde, while at LSU he’s been more disciplined looking to put his body on an opponent.

But perhaps more impressive has been his impact on the offensive glass. Simmons doesn’t have a real long wingspan (seven-foot) to rebound outside of his area but is a very quick leaper, flashing “second jump-ability” to fight for tipped balls around the basket. He has collected almost 12 percent of LSU’s misses, which is more impressive than it sounds when you consider he’s the triggerman of the offense and isn’t often parked below the rim just waiting to go after a miss.

DEFENSE

The biggest gap in Simmons’ skill-set is his defense, at least the way he’s been asked to play in college.

As mentioned above, Simmons has often played center and as such, he has displayed an ineptitude to protect the interior. He has played poor help defense, often failing to provide adequate help in time, at times even avoiding stepping into the front of the rim to challenge a driver in order not to risk picking up a foul. His pick-and-roll defense as a big man has also been soft, as he hasn’t put a lot of effort into contesting mid-range jump-shots.

Maybe Simmons has been coached to keep himself out of foul trouble. That sure seems the case because Simmons has put in the effort in situations where the play comes to him, flashing a willingness to draw charges and picking up 15 blocks in 11 games when he finds himself well positioned – showcasing the ability to leap out of two feet quite quickly. Or it might simply be that a 19-year-old is choosing to be selective with his effort.

But even performing at peak effort, there’s concern regarding how impactful a player Simmons can be on defense as a big due to his physical profile. He struggled to contest turnaround shots by true big men such as Henry Ellenson, Luke Fischer and DeMarcus Daniels due to his lack of elite length for a big man. His seven-foot wingspan isn’t much in the context of his six-foot-10 height.

His length is a lot more impactful when Simmons has contested shots by smaller players in the perimeter, though. Generally speaking, he has always been a more effective defender as a perimeter player. Simmons impressed those who saw him defend actual point guards at the Adidas Nations and worked hard to navigate over picks at the Nike Hoop Summit. He showed nice lateral quickness to stay in front of Ellenson and Cody Martin when they took him off the dribble and was very engaged in the game against North Florida, when LSU switched aggressively and he picked up the point of attack a couple of times – though no smaller guard from North Florida really tried testing going around him.

Simmons is probably too big to go over screens against the pick-and-roll on a consistent basis, though, and would probably be manipulated out of the way by pro point guards with some ease. If a team were to try playing him as a point guard, it would probably need a Danny Green-, Iman Shumpert-, Avery Bradley-sort of wing who can defend point guards in his place full time. Simmons could then be hidden on a weaker threat around the perimeter, and his length can become more of an asset helping shut down passing lanes.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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