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Suns Draft Watch: First Impressions — Brandon Ingram

Duke's Brandon Ingram (14) holds onto the ball as Virginia's Darius Thompson (51) and Evan Nolte, rear, defend during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Durham, N.C., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Stop two in our “First Impressions” series takes us to Cameron Indoor Stadium. We’ll take a look at Duke freshman forward Brandon Ingram.

A reminder, this is the first time I’ve watched the prospect closely, and this is an initial reaction that will evolve over time.

The game watched was Duke’s 63-62 win over Virginia on Feb. 13. Ingram scored 25 points on 10-of-22 shooting with seven rebounds, one assist, four turnovers and no steals or blocks.

 


 

What makes the Ingram versus Ben Simmons debate so fascinating is how they’re polar opposites of each other in terms of current skill set.

The 18-year-old Blue Devils star looks to be your prototypical modern day small forward/power forward hybrid. He stands 6’9.5″ in shoes and has a freakish 7’3″ wingspan.

Ingram’s three-point stroke is money, he connected on 4-of-9 versus the Cavaliers and is shooting 40.8 percent for the season (142 attempts).

His length allows him to get his shot off over closeouts and he showed an ability to hit jumpers off the bounce and in catch-and-shoot situations.

At this point, taking a couple dribbles and using his length to get looks over defenders is his top source of creativity. This is part of the reason his field goal percentage on two-point jumpers is only 42 percent according to Hoop-Math.

Ingram doesn’t yet have the handle to be the initiator of an offense — he’s playing off others. Duke only had him run a few pick-and-rolls as a ball handler, but used him more frequently as the screen setter ending with a pick-and-pop.

His passing was simplistic, almost always hitting one-man away and nothing advanced. If Ingram’s straight-line dribble-drives got cut off he didn’t have much of a counter.

This was one of his two buckets at the rim:

It was more about bad defense than Ingram’s ability to create his own shot. The defender overpursues and gives Ingram a clear lane to the basket. It was a simple drive with an incredible finish.

The other basket at the rim was off an offensive rebound.

Ingram has a long way to go to be a number-one offensive option. His ball-handling and passing both need to improve quite a bit.

Outside of his jumper, the most impressive aspects of Ingram’s game were his defense and rebounding. His versatility to defend on the perimeter and interior comfortably is what’s going to allow him shift between the three and four.

If the offensive game doesn’t diversify, this is important for him to be able to play PF more frequently. He is skinny and still needs to put on more weight for this, too.

Ingram uses his length to contest shots and anticipates drives well. His help defense is ahead of schedule for someone so young. There were a couple lapses on defending guards attempting to drive, but his lateral quickness is solid. It’s a good sign he’s averaging slightly over one steal and one block a game.

His defensive rebounding was fantastic. Ingram had no issues fighting for position and grabbing contested boards, not just the easy ones.

You can see all the tools for Ingram to become a terrific player — it’s just going to take a little time for it all to take shape. Simmons is further along in his development and a more instinctual offensive player. You have a better idea of what you’re getting from the LSU star.

The upside with Ingram is immense based on his physical tools, but what he turns into is a much bigger unknown.

Others in the First Impressions Series

LSU forward Ben Simmons

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