Walton talks with Bill Simmons about Brandon Ingram and how he can be like Giannis.
Throughout the entire draft process, before and after, Brandon Ingram’s biggest positives were the raw tools and feel for the game that he possesses. The measurables are there, to point out the obvious. Ingram stands at a lanky 6’9″ (pushing 6’10”) and totes a massive wingspan of 7’3″. It is hard to miss him when he steps on the floor. The possibilities are endless when thinking about what he could turn out to be.
Coach Luke Walton is of the belief that Ingram can be a good player no matter if he can shoot the ball consistently well. In a visit on the Bill Simmons Podcast, Walton gushed about Ingram’s potential and what type of player he can be.
When Simmons asked about what Ingram could become, Walton held back no feelings about the 19-year-old forward.
“There’s no way to know yet because the only way to know, the only way to answer that is to know what kind of shooter he becomes. Because his floor is going to be really good. Even if he never turns into a great shooter, he’s going to be a really good NBA player because he cares, he’s long, he’s got a great feel. He weighs 180 pounds and he’s already starting to finish with dunks in the lane as he beats people. His floor is already going to be high.”
Off the bat, it is easy to tell how highly regarded Ingram is in the eyes of Walton. Coming from the coach who is around Ingram daily, this is all positive. Ingram’s shooting has been far from steady, Walton acknowledges that; but if you take away the shooting, Walton is a firm believer in that at the very least Ingram will be a great NBA player.
The poor shooting is the knock on Ingram, but Walton believes that will change and says Ingram is in the gym working on that among other things.
“He’s going to put on weight, he’s going to be strong enough, he’s going to be able to finish in the lane, he’s going to hit free throws. All those things I’m 100 percent confident about. Depending on how high his ceiling gets is going all, in my opinion, going to be determined by how good of a shooter he becomes. And he’s in here working. He works on it. So I would like to believe that he’ll become a pretty consistent shooter. But even with him being a consistent shooter, there’s that range of is he going to be knocking down threes like Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant are now where like if they’re open, that things going in.”
Find someone who believes in you like Luke Walton believes in Brandon Ingram. If anything has been made clear about Ingram’s time in Los Angeles, it is that he never stops working on his game. If it wasn’t for the pressure of having Kobe’s old locker, he may have already gained a consistent three-point shot.
When asked if Ingram could put on weight and find time at power forward, Walton states that Ingram is a 3, most notably calling him a “point forward.” Simmons goes on to compare Ingram to Milwaukee’s Giannis Antentokounpo, which Walton doesn’t shoot down, but adds to it and once again goes back to the prospect of Ingram making his threes.
“Yeah, yeah. I mean seriously. It’s all up and down because…every ball screen, teams go under on him and they close out short. And if they get to that point where they have to fight over that screen and that have to run him off the three, with his feel for the game and his skill level and physical attributes, he’s going to be a monster to deal with. But again, it comes down to if he can knock the shot down.”
The key to unlocking Brandon Ingram’s full potential is the three-point shot. That has been made crystal clear. Ingram is a smart enough basketball player that if defenders are forced to fight over the screens set for him, he’ll notice the open opportunities to drive, dish the ball to a teammate, or look for other clear areas on the floor to put up a shot.
Magic Johnson has had a short, albeit impactful time in the Lakers front office, but has already made an impact on Brandon Ingram. Walton makes note that Magic watches Lakers practices and brings up an example of the Oklahoma City trip, where Johnson points Ingram out of the group of young players.
“We’re in Oklahoma City and he comes up after practice and we’re just shooting the sh*t about how it went and what this young guy did and that young guy and he starts talking about Brandon. He made three or four great swing-through moves where he got into the paint, but then whether it’s his size or what not, he tries to fade away from the contact and makes it a lot harder shot than it needs to be. So Magic’s like ‘Tell him when he gets in there, that little jump one-handed hook shot would be so good with his length’ and I said ‘Sh*t, you’re Magic Johnson. That sounds a lot better coming from you than it does from me.’ Then Magic went down there and worked with him on it. When he’s giving advice to players, I think it’s very beneficial.”
After hearing this and reading about Kobe’s texts to Ingram, all signs obviously point to him being the next great Laker. Stepping away from the hyperbole, it is an encouraging sign to see such great former players allocating their time and attention to Ingram. Having another positive voice backing Ingram’s development is telling about where he stands in the Lakers’ big picture.
As time goes on, it will become clear whether Ingram obtains the steady three-point shot that has been eluding him. As for the rest of his game, he can only add to what is a phenomenal base for such a young player. Ingram has shown he can play in this league and go head to head with the fiercest of competition without backing down. Here’s to a bright future for Brandon Ingram, Luke Walton, and the Lakers.