Coming into this college basketball season, popular opinion was that LSU's Ben Simmons was far and away the best prospect, and everyone else was a tier below him. The first couple weeks of the season seemed to corroborate that notion, but Duke swingman Brandon Ingram has recently shown he deserves to be in conversations with Simmons in a draft class where nobody else has really separated themselves.
The 18-year-old Ingram struggled out of the gate, but he's owned the month of December. In four games, he's averaging 22.0 points per game while shooting 55.9% from the field and 50.0% from beyond the arc, 8.2 rebounds, 2.2 blocks, and 1.75 steals. Ingram's combination of size, shooting, and ball handling is what makes him so deadly on offense, and his ever improving defense is certainly wowing scouts and fans alike.
According to measurements taken at the Nike Hoop Summit this year, Ingram stands 6' 9.5" in shoes, with a 7' 3" wingspan and a 9' 1.5" standing reach. That's absurd for a wing player, and mimics some of Kevin Durant's pre-drat measureables. The only real knock on Ingram in this department is that he's super skinny, listed at just 190 lbs. But the good news is he's put on 23 lbs. since the beginning of July, and will continue to fill out his frame over the next couple of years. He's actually pretty strong considering how skinny he is (I'll get into that more later), and his ability to bang down low and finish through contact will only improve when he adds some more meat to his bone.
Ingram has one of the nicest jumpers in college basketball right now. The righty has a high release point (and his length makes it almost impossible to block his shot), snaps his wrist and follows through. It's almost textbook.
This may be a wide open three for Ingram, but look how fluid it is. He's able to catch, turn, square his shoulders to the basket and shoot all in one continuous motion. Not every look is going to be that easy for Ingram, but the fact that he can get his shot quickly and smoothly is a very covetable trait.
Again, no wasted motions on this shot. Luke Kennard hits Ingram with a bounce and he immediately steps into and knocks down his corner three as two Georgia Southern defenders close out on him.
Here, Ingram slides into the corner on a Matt Jones drive, and is able to knock down the shot over the outstretched arm of Jordan Loveridge, large in part to his length and quick release. Loveridge fouled him on this attempt, and Ingram had a chance at the line for a four-point play.
Ingram is only shooting 35.6% from beyond the arc on the season, but his recent success and obviously strong mechanics point to that percentage improving as the season goes on.
One area where he's shown glimpses of effectiveness is with his pull-up jumper, although he doesn't seem entirely comfortable doing that yet.
This isn't the best shot in the world, considering there's a defender in his face and he's also one step inside the three-point line, but this is something he needs to add to his game. At least from what I've seen, when he has the ball in his hands he typically wants to drive to the rim or kick out to a teammate. Without adding a pull up, NBA defenses will just sag off him and look to protect the rim off drives.
For as big as he is, Ingram is a pretty adept ball handler. He can dribble comfortably with either hand, and is willing to attack both sides of the basket. What's maybe most impressive is how little he turns the ball over considering how large of a role he plays in Duke's offense. Ingram posts a great 10.1% turnover rate despite 25.1% usage rate, and has just 17 turnovers in 315 minutes of playing time. In regards to his shooting ability around the rim, Hoop-Math.com has Ingram making 22 of 37 shots (for a respectable 59%), but only four of those opportunities were assisted, meaning he's creating a lot of opportunities for himself.
He's capable of showing off some nifty dribble moves, but Ingram shows great strength and an ability to finish through contact despite how skinny he is.
Ingram does a nice job of using his body to seal off Kyle Kuzma while also keeping his dribble tight to avoid being stripped by the help defender, and then scores over Kuzma.
Earlier in the game, Ingram takes his defender off the dribble with his left hand, fights through contact and has the presence of mind to switch to his right hand mid-air to finish off the glass. A pretty tough bucket for the freshman.
Ingram also possesses a really nice spin move that allows him some easy looks at the basket.
Here, Ingram gets his defender leaning left, spins into the middle of the lane and finishes with his right hand. Too easy.
Same thing, different direction. Ingram gets the defender leaning right, spins back left into the lane and gets an easy lay up.
And of course, these ball handling skills translate into the open floor.
Ingram snags the rebound, sees Duke has a fast break, and does a good job of keeping his head up to find Luke Kennard for the layup. (Ingram's a good passer. He's never going to put up big assist numbers, but he seems to recognize where his teammates are on the floor and puts them in good spots to score.)
After blocking a shot, Ingram brings the ball up the floor, finds some space and gets off a floater. Duke doesn't really allow Ingram to bring the ball up often, but it's clear that he can facilitate an offense, and that should translate to the next level, along with the plethora of other things he can do with the ball in his hands.
If there's a red flag in Ingram's game, it's probably on defense. He looked completely lost at the start of the season, but is slowly starting to piece things together. A lot of his issues have to just do with effort and positioning. In the below video, Kuzma (#35) is Ingram's man on defense.
After missing out on a rebound, Ingram slowly jogs back on defense while Kuzma goes full sprint, and he ends up getting a layup plus a trip to the foul line.
In this instance, Ingram unknowingly puts himself in a bad spot. Because Ingram is playing behind him, Kuzma has an easy lane to the basket, and by the time Ingram realizes it Utah already has an additional two points on the board.
Onto the good stuff though, and there honestly is plenty of it. When Ingram's defending the ball one-on-one, he's a a really hard guy to score on.
Ingram, undeterred by the screen, displays solid footwork to stay with the quicker guard and then uses his freakishly long arms to swat the ball out of bounds.
Ingram sticks Kuzma tight in this post up, forces him into the middle of the lane and once again uses his length to swat the absolute hell out of that shot attempt. His ability to defend the paint and block shots will likely make him an option as a small ball four at the next level, provided he adds the extra weight he's expected to.
But his defensive prowess doesn't stop at shot blocking. Ingram is excellent at closing down passing lanes, resulting in a lot of steals.
At an important moment in the Utah game, Ingram recognizes the pass is coming across the court, steps in front of his man, and turns a great defensive effort into instant offense. Just like on offense, his length is crucial in creating big plays like this one.
Once again, Ingram uses his length to step in front of a pass, then goes coast-to-coast for a vicious dunk.
Ingram's potential on defense is truly limitless. There are few guys who can move as well as he can and defend both the rim and the perimeter, part of the reason why he's such an intriguing prospect. He'll learn how to best position himself with experience, but the effort aspect is up to him. When he's locked in, it's easy to see just how effective he can be.
Brandon Ingram is terrorizing the college basketball scene, and he's just beginning to tap into his potential. He can score in a multitude of ways, and his versatility on defense will give opposing teams absolute fits. Like any college player there are aspects of his game that need improvement, but most of them should simply come with more playing time.
The 76ers are desperately in need of a two-way player who can impact a game like he can, and if they're lucky to end up with the top overall pick, figuring out who to select won't be so cut-and-dry.