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Rosen: Lakers’ Brandon Ingram has promise, but needs a lot of work

Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) holds Miami Heat guard Wayne Ellington (2) away from the ball during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Los Angeles, Friday, Jan. 6, 2017. (AP Photo/Alex Gallardo)
AP Photo/Alex Gallardo

The Lakers’ roster is loaded with young players who represent the team’s hopes for future success. Prominent among these is the 6’9”, 190-pound Brandon Ingram, the second pick in the 2016 draft.

Any player picked that high is expected to develop into a legitimate franchise performer.

On the basis of LA’s 108-87 loss to Portland, the young man certainly shows some signs that he might achieve that status, albeit later than sooner.

PLUS

He has quick feet and can run with anybody in the league.

Ingram can also dance with the ball. His tricky crossover and long steps enabled him to get into the lane on the several isos the Lakers ran for him.

He dropped an open trey in an early-offense situation, and another one when he received a hand-off and was similarly unguarded. Given that he makes only 26.1 percent of his triples, his long-distance accuracy (2-2) was an indication perhaps of his work ethic. Moreover, his release on both of these shots was impeccable.

Ingram’s other bucket was a mid-range jumper after curling around staggered screens — again when his shot was not challenged.

For a rookie, Ingram showed excellent court awareness, making several timely passes that included two dimes, a pair of excellent entry passes to teammates in the low post and only one turnover when he tried to make a difficult interior pass while he was airborne.

At the defensive end, Ingram made some excellent closeouts of perimeter shooters, and he has a good instinct for knowing when to switch.

His good hands were in evidence when he managed to snare a defensive rebound (one of the four he had) in a crowd.

MINUS

His most obvious problem is his lack of strength. Indeed, Ingram got Bogarted whenever he was involved in the slightest body contact.

Ingram’s slight physique made it difficult for him to finish in traffic. That’s why an in-the-paint flipper was blocked and he missed a layup. In these situations, he has to learn to change his shot release while aloft in order to find open daylight.

His other miss came when he curled around staggered screens but was unable to shake his defender, and shot a semi-brick under pressure.

He split his six free throws, mainly because he slightly moves his head backwards on his release.

Ingram spent most of his playing time guarding Evan Turner, who’s an excellent role player but not a go-to scorer. However, Turner did beat the rookie for an easy layup on the only iso he was allowed to run.

But here’s where Ingram’s rookie-itis was most noticeable.

Immediately after Turner abused him, Ingram dribbled coast-to-coast seeking to retaliate. The result was a forced shot that constituted the layup he missed.

Also, Ingram never challenged any pass executed by the man he was defending. And, on a few occasions, he failed to bust it while running in defensive transition. In fact, he ran harder when he had the ball than he did without it.

CONCLUSION

Given that he’ll put in many hours in the weight room during the offseason, the question is this: How much will Ingram’s presumed added bulk and strength detract from his quickness and speed?

During the summer, Ingram must also develop some effective shake-and-bake moves in order to create makeable shots in the paint.

It appears as though the Lakers are grooming him to play the point, which is probably the only position where finesse can be more important than power.

If this is true, does this mean that they’ve given up on D’Angelo Russell’s ability to play that position? Which, by the way, is something that has been generally acknowledged to be the case by most NBA insiders.

And where does Jordan Clarkson fit into this scenario?

So, for Ingram to fully develop as the player he is expected to be, he must bust his butt once the season is over, and the Lakers must make some critical decisions concerning their roster.

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