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As one of the greatest tankathons in the NBA is underway, a few teams stand out. The Brooklyn Nets, who still don’t have their own pick this year, and the LA Lakers, who lose their 2018 first round pick to Boston or Philadelphia in a convoluted manner, both stand to continue to fight for wins in the post All-Star period. Nobody is calling these two teams great yet, but the Lakers are showing incredibly promising signs of future prowess. This means good things for fantasy managers as well because you can expect the Lakers to play its players in a sensible way rather than resting players for youth. Today we’re diving into the game of Brandon Ingram, the sophomore future star of the Lakers.

In the hype surrounding one of the NBA’s historically premier teams, Ingram has been shuttled aside for players such as Lonzo Ball, Kyle Kuzma, and, even, Isaiah Thomas. This is expected for fans who aren’t down for watching bad teams, and Ingram’s rookie season especially left Lakers fans wanting. But the numbers don’t lie, and Ingram is showing incredible strides leading HIS team despite all the peripheral damage flying past his franchise.

My first few impressions from watching Ingram’s game as of late is that he is truly using his length now. At 6’9’’, 190 lbs, Ingram is still thin, but he’s been great at using his long limbs to drive into the lane to either score or draw the foul. Coach Luke Walton has been using Ingram in a point forward role to bring the ball down the court on offense, and, with the ball in his hands more often, his potential to create is showing. Let me show you, not tell you how Brandon Ingram is becoming a star worth grabbing.

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Brandon Ingram

To preface Ingram’s spotlight, I’ve never looked at a player this young before and the data is fairly limited. In that case, it may be hard to determine definitive trends with a season and half worth of data. I pulled Ingram’s numbers from his year at Duke to see how he has evolved.

Ingram had a pre-season ADP of 92.3, but, so far, over the season, he’s been ranked 170. This is due to his poor shooting percentages from 3, his low free throw percentages, and his high turnovers. Here is his season-long data.

Ingram has been shooting an average of 13 shots per game, 4.8 free throws, and 1.7 threes. There are obvious differences from college to the NBA; you have more evenly distributed talent, the three-point line is further back, your competition is weaker, etc. So, you would expect some devaluation coming into the NBA. Ingram’s game hasn’t manifested itself in great changes stats wise, although his passing skills are much improved. Young teams often need a bit of time over the season to really figure out how to use their young, volatile pieces. The Lakers have been playing a better clip, despite having their point guard, Lonzo Ball, injured. Ingram has shown drastic improvement over the past month. He has introduced ball handling, distribution, and driving skills that have pushed the Lakers squad forward. Over the past month, Ingram has a fantasy rank of 60.  His shooting numbers didn’t alter that much (13.3 shots per game, 4.1 free throws, and 2 threes).

Here, the assists and shooting percentages are up tremendously, as well as the stocks stats. As always, we need to look at the sustainability of these increased numbers. How has Ingram’s game changed over the past month or is this just an “up” shooting month?

Shooting:

Ingram has shown consistent improvement in his shooting percentages from his rookie year in all categories (6.5% increase in fg%, 8.7% increase in 3FG%, and 4.5% increase in ft%) More is to come in these areas. He gets the second most touches per game on his team (56.3) and the most front court touches per game on his team [34.6] His shot creation has been a wonder to the Lakers. 86.7% of his field goals attempted are from two-point range and 13.3 of his shots are from 3. Managers would hope that eventually Ingram can spread his shooting out more to the perimeter. 58.1% of Ingram’s field goals made are unassisted, which says a lot about his potential to carry a team. Ingram also takes 10.7 drives per game, the most on the Lakers, and is converting to 47.9% shooting on these drives. This part of Ingram’s game is the most impressive improvement.

Passing:

Ingram has also grown in the area of ball handling and distribution. He has the second most passes made on the team behind Ball [35.9] He has been seeing more value in this realm since Ball has been hurt, but his game average assists go from 3.8 to 8 potential assists, which shows his promise as his team gets better.

Defense:

On average, Ingram contests 8.8 shots and has 1.8 deflections per game. He also has the most contested 3s per game on his team [4.3], which means he’s improving as a perimeter defender as well. His opponents are shooting 38.2% on 11.5 shots from midrange and 35.7% on 20.4 shots from 3. Ingram is lengthy and shifty, so don’t sleep on his potential as a defender.

Lineup Data:

Brandon Ingram has solidly grasped onto the starting small forward role for the Lakers. He has an offensive rating of 102.7 and a defensive rating of 105.3. The Lakers most played unit of Ball, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Ingram, Kuzma, and Brook Lopez [224 min] have a net rating of -0.8. An interesting development over the past month that has become a staple lineup with 175 minutes played is the lineup with Ingram running point and Josh Hart, KCP, Julius Randle, Lopez filling out the other spots. That lineup excludes Ball with his injury, but has a 7.6 net rating. This is the highest net rating for lineups with over 100 minutes played together that the Lakers have put together. It will be interesting to see how ball handlers are set with Ball coming back from injury and Hart out indefinitely. Ingram may see more usage due to his ball handling and distribution ability. Another interesting note is that Ingram played exceptionally well with Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. [18.1 net rating with 94.4 defensive rating and 165 minutes played together]. Sadly, those are the two players LA traded away to Cleveland. I think once Ingram gets adjusted to the constantly fluctuating lineups, he will solidify his numbers. But I have confidence that, due to his natural improvement, he will continue to shine on this roster.

My major takeaway is that Brandon Ingram is dripping with potential and has shown consistent improvement through the middle of his sophomore season. He has been showing proof of stardom and a strong leader for the Lakers. Look to see Ingram grow to a top 50-60 player next season, and a top 90 player for the rest of this season.

 

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