One of the biggest draws to the annual NBA Summer League is the opportunity it provides for fans to first witness the newest additions to their teams. This year, one of the biggest draws to the Las Vegas Summer League was Brandon Ingram: a 6-foot-9, lanky small-forward from Kinston, North Carolina, drafted second overall by the Los Angeles Lakers. With Las Vegas being about a four hour drive from Los Angeles itself, every Lakers Summer League game felt like it was being played at the Staples Center instead of the "neutral" stadiums in Las Vegas, and many of those Lakers fans in attendance certainly kept a close eye on Ingram's performances.
Ingram didn't disappoint. While he didn't dominate the Summer League like second-year NBA players typically do, Ingram showed the necessary flashes of his potential fans were hoping to see. Ingram ended the Summer League with the following per-game stat-line: 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, 1.8 assists on 41.2% shooting from the field and 25% from three. Taken out of context, the stats don't scream "potential franchise player", but it is generally accepted that Summer League games aren't to be taken too seriously as they are more of a glorified pick up game than real NBA action. Yet by watching Ingram's performances closely, one can conclude many things about his game: many things good, some bad things and (occasionally) some ugly things.
One of Ingram's biggest calling cards that vaulted him to the second overall pick was his scoring ability. He showed flashes of that in his debut game against the New Orleans Pelicans (12 points, 5-9 from the field) and particularly in his final game against the Utah Jazz (22 points, 9-13 from the field). Ingram showed glimpses of an impressive arsenal of skills, and it all starts with his ability to shoot. Ingram showed his ability to score from all three levels: close range, mid-range and from three. Perhaps most impressive was that many of his jump-shots didn't simply come from catch and shoot situations but from isolating and taking on defenders off the dribble:
However, Ingram proved he was much more than a shooter. He isn't the most explosive of players but he has long, fluid strides which he used to get to the basket regularly. Despite the general concerns about his skinny frame and lack of strength, he was willing and able to drive and finish at the rim at times, even among bigger and stronger players:
Ingram's offensive skill-set expands beyond the two above examples. Ingram showed he has a post game, often using it against smaller defenders. He also showed us that he can score from catch and shoot opportunities during the Summer League, another immediately translatable attribute in the NBA. For example, this basic inbound play:
While he projects to be more of a scorer rather than a passer offensively, he showed he also has good vision on the court, with an ability to find open guys for good looks when drawing attention from the defense:
With new coach Luke Walton managing the Lakers, it is expected that there will be an emphasis with on-ball screens within the offensive system he implements. Brandon Ingram showed the versatility to be a play-maker in the pick and roll/pop, both as the ball handler and the screener:
Defensively, Ingram showed just as much potential as he did offensively. At 6-foot-9, with a 7-foot-3 wingspan and a 9-foot-1.5 inch standing reach, Ingram has the ability to disrupt offenses by getting steals, blocks and deflections that other players cannot. Physical attributes aside, Ingram is an excellent isolation defender due to his lateral quickness and defensive discipline. When combined with those physical attributes, he has the potential to become a lock-down perimeter defender who can guard multiple positions.
One subtle thing about Ingram's defense is that he is also a great help defender. In the Summer League, Ingram often made smart rotations when needed, preventing otherwise easy shot opportunities and simultaneously covering up for mistakes and defensive lapses from teammates.
On the other hand, Ingram's performance in the Summer League wasn't without fault, showing there are certain aspects of his game that can cause problems for him once the NBA season starts. Currently, Ingram's biggest weakness is his lack of strength. As of draft night, Ingram was under 200 pounds and he has a very skinny frame. Understandably, not all teenage draft picks will be built like Jaylen Brown or Ben Simmons, and it is expected that years of NBA training in weight rooms will result to added weight on his frame and strength. However that is a long term fix, and therefore his lack of strength likely will result in many problems for the initial part of his NBA career.
One such problem will be how Ingram handles scoring against physicality. Simply stated, any sort of physical defense drastically reduced Ingram's scoring effectiveness during the Summer League, and in the NBA defenses will only get more physical with him. Ingram couldn't finish at the rim through contact well, often turning the ball over or badly missing whenever referees weren't calling shooting fouls.
Another strength-related issue was that Ingram couldn't fight past screens on defense. In today's NBA, on-and-off-ball screens are used more than ever, presenting a problem for Ingram as screeners were able to separate him from his defensive assignments in the Summer League.
There were also a few fundamental flaws that were exposed during the Summer League. While these flaws are easily correctable, some of them were slightly worrying to see happen, even in the Summer League. The biggest two issues were him ball-watching off the ball and constantly not boxing-out for rebounds.
Ingram regularly guarded wing players that weren't ball dominant, and often he seemed more focused on whoever had the ball instead of the man he was guarding. Players took advantage of this and Ingram was constantly caught unprepared by back cuts and screens. Sometimes, it made Ingram look really bad:
In addition, Ingram didn't show a willingness to box out defenders for rebound opportunities. He was a good rebounder regardless, but that was mostly due to his height and length rather than the rebounding fundamentals, which he will need to apply in the NBA. Due to him not boxing out, he allowed his man to get dominant rebounding position on him, resulting in offensive rebounds and put-backs.
Overall, Ingram's Summer League was a very satisfactory performance that should give Lakers fans plenty of hope for the future, especially after going through the darkest few years in franchise history. It is also worth noting that Ingram was usually a secondary or tertiary option during the Summer League, with D'Angelo Russell being the primary decision maker for the team. Ingram's best game by far (against the Jazz) came during the only game where Russell wasn't playing, making it questionable if we really saw the true ability of Ingram during the Summer League. It's possible that Ingram can be a lot more productive than what the Summer League tape and stats show. Fortunately for Lakers fans, there's an upcoming NBA season which will provide enough opportunities for them to see what Ingram can really do.