NBA Draft: Lakers select Brandon Ingram at No. 2; intrigued with his potential
In a move that carried less drama than a bland Hollywood script, the Lakers selected a player in the NBA draft on Thursday that many expected would wear a purple and gold uniform.The Lakers drafted Duke forward Brandon Ingram with their No. 2 pick, providing an immediate replacement at the small forward spot that Kobe Bryant left vacant following a storied 20-year NBA career. While Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak argued “there is no ceiling on” Ingram, he hopes to carry the legacy Bryant set that ended with a 60-point performance. “I just loved he was still at it; that’s Kobe Bryant,” Ingram said. “He took no nights off. He had an amazing work ethic. I hope I can be like him someday.” The Lakers may have drafted Ingram to replace Bryant. But the 18-year-old Ingram is not comparable to Bryant after he won the ACC’s freshman of the year award during his lone season at Duke. But Ingram should complement the Lakers’ promising young roster to remove the stench from finishing last season with the worst record in franchise history. “I don’t know if he’s the best or not, but he’s the player I wanted,” Lakers coach Luke Walton said. “What he has the potential of doing and what he can already do at his age, with his length and his skill set, is very impressive and unique.”All of which could bolster the Lakers in a few areas.With the Lakers finishing 30th out of 30 NBA teams in 3-point percentage last season (31.7), Ingram should boost those numbers after shooting 41 percent from behind the perimeter with the Blue Devils. With the Lakers finishing 27th in total defense last season (106.9 points per allowed), Ingram’s history in defending the opposing team’s top scorer could improve those rankings, too.“If I have a lot of attention on me, I’ll get guys open,” Ingram said before referring to his future teammates D’Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson and Anthony Brown. “All those guys work on different things in the offseason. I’ll look to get their numbers up in their percentages.” That partly explained why Kupchak’s phone rarely stopped ringing on Thursday. He fielded what he called “a lot of interest in our No. 2 pick.” That did not spark much momentum into a potential trade for a star player. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Error “There was nothing that piqued our interest,” Kupchak said. “This time of year, teams are serious. They’re recognizing that picks are valuable.”The Lakers also selected Croatian center Ivica Zubac with their No. 32 pick, but obviously Ingram’s arrival is considered most valuable. During his individual workout, Ingram showed off his shooting stroke and ball-handling talents while also going 1-on-1 against Lakers development coaches Thomas Scott and J.J. Outlaw. The Lakers also liked Ingram’s respectful demeanor during dinner, which included Julius Randle, Russell, Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Brown attending the second session.“We’re ecstatic to have him,” Kupchak said. “Going into it based on what we felt, we felt we’d be very lucky to get Brandon into this city and into this organization.”It appears Ingram felt the same way.Once he heard his name called at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Ingram stood up and pointed his hands toward the sky. Later, Ingram professed he felt “very happy” and “very blessed” for playing for a “rich organization.” Though he represents the youngest player in this year’s draft, the 18-year-old Ingram also outlined his hope to become a more vocal leader. “When I went into Duke, I wasn’t vocal at all,” Ingram said. “I needed to be a vocal leader and not being afraid to talk and not be afraid to get on people when I’m playing.” That hardly marks the most pressing concern about Ingram. Kupchak admitted Ingram “needs to work and get stronger” after having a listed 6-foot-9, 190-pound frame. Yet, Walton insisted he “doesn’t see concerns about his weight” for one simple reason.“He’s young; he’ll naturally get stronger,” Walton said. “Talking to some of the coaches that were here when he came and did his workout, even though he’s skinny, he had strength to him in the individual workout that he did. That’s good to hear.”Ingram said he has gone from weighing 169 pounds to 195 in the past year because of constant workouts and high-caloric meals. He also has said he wants to weigh 210 pounds by the beginning of the 2016-17 season. Yet, Ingram downplayed his weight issues, arguing that he can overcome such a weakness with superior defense and an outside shot.“I don’t think it bothers me at all,” Ingram said. “It just gives me motivation to show guys the skinny part doesn’t matter. It got me here today. I’m the No. 2 pick. Skinny didn’t mean anything when I was battling guys each and every night.”Still, Ingram did not land at No. 1. The Philadelphia 76ers reserved that spot for LSU forward Ben Simmons because of his superb playmaking. “I don’t think I have a chip on my shoulder for that,” Ingram said. “I’m having a chip on my shoulder for being doubted each and every day. I try to prove people wrong.”The Lakers hardly sounded skeptical of Ingram. Instead, they went for the expected move. That may have lacked any element of surprise, but the draft selection could still eventually lead to a blockbuster performance.