OVERVIEW: Brandon Ingram entered Duke as one of the most highly-touted recruits in the country, ranked No. 4 in the Recruiting Services Consensus Index. The 6’9” Ingram lived up to his billing, capturing ACC Freshman of the Year honors while averaging 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.0 assists. He pumped up his scoring average to 23.0 during the Blue Devils’ three NCAA Tournament games. It was a foregone conclusion that Ingram would be a one-and-done college player and he could be the first player off the board. With his size, lanky physique and smooth stroke, the 18-year-old has drawn comparisons to Thunder superstar Kevin Durant.
STRENGTHS: Ingram possesses just about every quality an NBA team could ask for in a wing player. He’s a superior shooter who averaged 44.2% from the field and 41.0% from long range while facing top competition. He’s also a willing passer and solid ball-handler who sees the floor well and can run the attack at times. His speed puts pressure on the defense in the open court, where he can go coast-to-coast after defensive rebounds or run the wing and finish. As DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony notes, Ingram is bound to create mismatches because, with his size and length, he can rise up and hit jumpers over the top of most defenders. If a bigger forward tries to check him, he can create off the bounce and attack the basket. With his 7’3” wingspan, Ingram can also be an impact player on defense. He averaged 1.4 blocks and 1.1 steals for Duke and showed a willingness to be a two-way player, as one talent evaluator told NBA.com’s David Aldridge. “He’s chippy,” the Pacific Division executive said. “He’s in there competing.”
WEAKNESSES: Most players entering the NBA need to add strength to play their position but the concerns are greater with Ingram because of his wiry frame. He’s listed at less than 200 pounds and there’s no question, especially early in his career, that Ingram will simply be overpowered at times. That lack of bulk was one of the reasons why, as Givony points out, he converted just 48% of his half-court attempts inside the paint. While Ingram displayed a polished turnaround jumper, his lack of strength makes it difficult for him to operate in the low post. He was surprisingly below average from the free throw line, making just 68% of his attempts. Givony also asserts that Ingram occasionally loses focus on the defensive end and doesn’t close out as quickly as he should, while ESPN Insider Chad Ford believes that Ingram still has work to do with his ball-handling despite his ability to create off the bounce.
PROJECTED DRAFT RANGE: It will be a surprise if Ingram doesn’t end up with the Sixers with the No. 1 pick or the Lakers with the No. 2 pick. Ingram and LSU freshman forward Ben Simmons seem like virtual locks to be the first two players off the board. The consensus around the league is that the Sixers will select Simmons, though they are playing it coy. Philadelphia is planning to work out Jaylen Brown, Kris Dunn, Jamal Murray and possibly a couple more candidates. ESPN Insider Chad Ford’s Big Board has Ingram in the second slot, while adding the Sixers could opt for fit over upside because of Ingram’s consistent 3-point shooting. DraftExpress’ Jonathan Givony has ranked Ingram No. 1 since mid-March, staunch in the belief that he hasn’t come close to reaching his ceiling and pointing out that Ingram showed rapid improvement in his lone college season.
RISE/FALL: It would be difficult to see Ingram drop out of the top three, given his obvious physical skills and his production at Duke. It’s not out of the question that the Sixers or Lakers could fall in love with a darkhorse candidate and allow the Celtics to scoop up either Ingram or Simmons. A medical red flag could also cause him to slip down but, once again, that’s an unlikely scenario.
FIT: Ingram would fill a major hole for either the Sixers, Lakers or Celtics. The Sixers have an aching need for a top-notch wing player to complete a frontcourt filled with other high lottery picks. Ingram would be viewed as Kobe Bryant‘s heir apparent if he winds up with the Lakers while also providing the franchise with an intriguing young trio in Ingram, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle. Ingram would give an outside threat to a Celtics team that ranked No. 28 in 3-point percentage. If he somehow slipped to the Suns at No. 4, he would fill their need for a dynamic small forward.
FINAL TAKE: Once Ingram fills out and goes under the supervision of an NBA strength coach, the concerns over his frame should ease. He quickly emerged as one of the top players in the ACC and it shouldn’t take long for Ingram to develop into a high-level small forward in the pros. He also made a strong impression with NBA executives in his interviews at the draft combine and his background reports say he’s a coachable player and a good teammate, according to Ford’s recent draft workout confidential. He’s not a guaranteed superstar but he should be an All-Star caliber player most of his career.