The New Orleans Pelicans currently stand to select sixth overall, but what if the ping-pong balls bless them with a higher pick? In a world where the Pelicans are picking in the top two, they'll have a chance to select between Duke's Brandon Ingram and LSU's Ben Simmons. Let's talk about the former - a toolsy forward with size and length that remind several people of Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant.
Vitals - 18 years old, 6-foot-9.5 height, 7-foot-3 wingspan - 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.1 blocks, 1.4 steals, 2.0 turnovers, 22.5 PER, 55.2 TS%
Offense - Let's work at the inside-out. Ingram is good at getting to the rim but had trouble finishing at the rim during his freshman year.. The 58 percent mark at the rim isn't great, but it also isn't terrible. The positive? 24 percent of his shot attempts were at the rim and assisted on just 17 percent of them. Moving to the mid range, Ingram knocked down 35 percent of his shots and looked rather comfortable doing so. Consistently, he got that jumper without much issue, shooting 37 percent. From three-point range, Ingram knocked down 41 percent of his threes with relative ease. He was assisted on 95 percent of them, but knocking down 41 percent of his 195 shots bodes well for his future.
On the ball, he's a fine secondary ball handler and initiator. With Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard, and Matt Jones around him at times, Ingram was allowed to create a bit and find open shooters, a desirable trait. Still, that could be improved. When he has the ball, he can create, but once his frame fills out (drink every time I say something of this ilk), I can see him being a better driver at the rim. Speaking of getting to the rim and generating free throws, Ingram's free throw shooting bothers me. Just 68 percent from the line last season on 170 attempts. Odd when he can hit 41 percent of his threes, but 68 percent from the line. Off the ball, can be a good cutter and someone who can make plays on putbacks and offensive rebounds.
Intangibles - Ingram is a string bean, but he fights on the glass. 6.8 rebounds per game, 10.8 rebound rate and various battles on the glass. The most notable game to me was his first North Carolina game, where I found Ingram battling on the defensive glass against draft prospect Brice Johnson, finishing with 10 rebounds. He actually finished with 18 rebounds in two games against the Tar Heels. I don't envision Ingram evolving into an elite rebounder, but I think as his game grows, he'll be a bigger factor on the glass.
There's hope for him as a passer, averaging two assists per game. However, 72 assists to 72 turnovers (a 1-1 ratio) aren't going to get it done. Ingram was good at passing both into the post and to other perimeter players, but it needs to improve to be considered an asset in his quiver.
Defense - Follow me on this next sentence: Brandon Ingram is both a potentially good defender and a good defender. The latter comes from the production this past season - 1.1 steals and 1.4 blocks per game in 36 games is nothing to sneeze at. Amile Jefferson, Duke's propjected starter at power forward, missed most of the season due to injury. The next logical option, Chase Jeter, struggled early on as a freshman. Coach Krzyzewski had Ingram play some more power forward, opening up the floor. The result was this pterodactyl using his wingspan to make plays early and often, which is something that matters, especially for someone that's projected to be a perimeter player.
However, the former comes with his actual defense on the floor. I thought Ingram looked good at times, but not great. His defensive upside is enormous because of his ability to defend multiple positions and pester shot attempts and passing lanes, but it all has to come together, which means he has to improve as an on-ball defender. While I find it to be an easy trait to fix, he does stand on his toes a bit while defending, causing a teetering motion against any and all stutter moves. That said, that's really the only issue on defense for me, outside of improving his frame. I thought his off-ball actions could improve, but they weren't terrible
Fit with Pelicans - In our Pelicans board post, I ranked Ben Simmons over Brandon Ingram because I think he's the best player in this class and if the Pelicans get the first pick, I think you have to take the hometown kid. That said, it's tough to say that he's a better fit than Ingram. The ability to space the floor, defend several positions on the floor and distribute a bit creates a tantalizing prospect. The Pelicans need a wing player, and Ingram is the best of the bunch in this class. With no ideal small forward on the roster, Ingram can slide right in and be an effective player as his frame fills out.
I also think in (short) time, Ingram could be the number two alongside Anthony Davis and ahead of Jrue Holiday, which would make this pick worth it, in my opinion. The Pelicans need to attract talent, but I doubt they'll ever land someone who can fill in that role. I think either Ingram or Simmons could potentially fill that role for cheap for a season or two, which would give New Orleans a much-needed boost.
Overall - I hate the Kevin Durant comparisons (and comparing prospects to all-time greats in general), so I'll stay away from that. The two players I think about with Ingram are Tayshaun Prince and Paul George. Prince was a lanky forward who played great defense and occasionally knocked down threes. In retrospect, Prince should've been more of a bomber. Paul George is probably where all of Ingram's skills coalesce - the scoring, the dynamic defense, the ability to distribute and factor on the glass.
Of course, he's a 19-year-old kid who played just one season at Duke. Whoever lands Ingram will have to get him to work and become a better, more consistent defender and work on filling out his frame. However, I think Ingram is a clean prospect for what's needed to win in today's NBA - long, lanky, makes plays on defense and can space the floor. I'm impressed right there, so consider me a fan of Ingram if they get the number two pick and if the Pelicans got the number pick and selected him, I wouldn't oppose too much. If the ping-pong balls fall in New Orleans' favor tomorrow, Ingram might find himself in the Crescent City.