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.
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.
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.
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.
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