What’s wrong with Brandon Ingram?

Why the Lakers need to do a better job of putting Brandon Ingram in situations where he has a chance to succeed

While it’s just been two preseason games, the big question nobody in Lakers training camp wants to bring up is what’s wrong with Brandon Ingram?

The Lakers lost their first two preseason games as Ingram struggled mightily, averaging just 9.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 0.5 assists and shooting just 30.4% from the field and 16.7% from beyond the arc with his supposedly improved shooting stroke. These figures are eerily reminiscent of Ingram’s disappointing rookie year when he averaged just 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while shooting 40.2% from the field and 29.4% from deep.

Worst of all was how slow and predictable Ingram’s play was on the court. His game so far has consisted of isolation plays on the right wing where he would try to beat his defender one-on-one with a dribble drive to his right. Unfortunately, Ingram at this point in his young career doesn’t have the first step or quickness to beat his man off the dribble, resulting in an extremely difficult shot at the rim heavily contested by more physical defenders.

Watching Ingram trying to drive to his right, it’s easy to see why he struggles to get by his defender. He just does not have the quickness or handle to break his man down off the dribble or the foot speed to get past his defender. The size and length that will ultimately make him a superstar now requires him to gather himself before every move and his long strides make it appear as if he is running in slow motion and make it easy for defenders to stay with him.

This is from the player Magic Johnson proclaimed to be ‘untouchable’ and projected to be the closer the Lakers would give the ball to finish games. Forget all the talk in the media about the Lakers putting too much pressure and unrealistic expectations on Lonzo Ball. The real problem may be the Lakers wanting too much too soon from Brandon Ingram, who frankly may just be too young mentally and physically to deliver what the team wants.

To me, the Lakers need to rethink what they want from Brandon Ingram at this point in his career and how best to best utilize him alongside Lonzo Ball.

First, I believe it was a mistake to declare Brandon as the team’s closer. That is way too much pressure to put on him at this point in his career. He doesn’t have the innate confidence and mental maturity to handle the pressure like Lonzo Ball or the closer’s ability to create and make a game winning shot. It’s one thing to have Kobe Bryant’s work ethic. It’s another thing entirely to have his killer instinct, clutch mentality, or ability to create and make shots.

I believe it’s the pressure to live up to Magic’s expectations and the team’s need for somebody to step up as the leading scorer that has caused Ingram to force shots and go iso every time he touches the ball rather than letting the game come to him, which is really how he fits best in Luke’s offense. The problem is you can’t make somebody into something they’re not. Brandon Ingram at this point in his career is not an alpha dog like Kobe Bryant.

Brandon’s lack of assists is also telling. This is a kid who played some point guard last year and is more than willing to share the ball. We already have one ball stopper in the starting lineup in Randle. The last thing the Lakers starting offense needs is another ball stopper in Ingram. Luke’s offense is built on every player sharing the ball. The Lakers need to stop trying to force Ingram to be a scorer and allow him to let the game come to him.

With D’Angelo Russell, Lou Williams, and Nick Young departed, the Lakers desperately need a find somebody to trust to take the last shot in the quarter or game so it’s easy to see why they’d love to see Ingram assume that role. Unfortunately, it’s just as easy to see that Brandon is just not ‘that’ guy now and may likely never be ‘that’ guy. Frankly, the only player on the Lakers’ roster now with the alpha dog mentality to be that closer is Kyle Kuzma.

Second, I believe the Lakers need to do a better job of putting Brandon in situations where he will have a better chance to succeed. To me, this means replacing Ingram’s ball stopping isolation plays on the right wing with plays designed to get Ingram the ball when and where he can take advantage. The last thing you want is for him to be banging bodies with grown men, which is what happens he attacks the rim with a defender hanging right on him.

Instead, the Lakers need to run plays to get Ingram the ball when and here he can use his size, length, and skillset to score. That means setting back picks to free him up for lobs, off ball screens to free him up for jumpers, and on ball screens to free him up for layups. At this point in his career, Brandon’s skillset and mentality are better served by allowing the game to come to him rather than trying to control the game one-on-one as a volume isolation scorer.

In a way, it’s good news Brandon Ingram is going to sit out tonight’s game. It should give Luke and his staff time to put in some plays specifically designed to get easier higher percentage shots for Ingram in the spots he shoots bests.

Hopefully, Luke will also sit down with Brandon and dial back the pressure to be the team’s leading scorer. That’s too much of a load for him to handle. Brandon needs to relax and let the game come to him. Then he’ll be fine.