A No. 2 overall pick in the NBA Draft is likely to be a starter right off the bat. However, the Los Angeles Lakers have decided to take a different approach with Brandon Ingram.
While speaking to the Los Angeles Daily News’ Mark Medina, Lakers head coach Luke Walton briefly commented on Ingram’s minutes once the season starts in October.
“We’re not going to throw him [Ingram] into the starting lineup right away,” said Walton. “You develop the young core by rewarding them when they play well.”
Walton is choosing to bring Ingram, a 19-year-old scoring machine, off the bench to start the 2016-17 season. The Lakers had the second-worst record (17-65) in the NBA last season, setting a franchise record for losses in a season. The Lakers have set a franchise record for losses in three consecutive seasons, going 27-55 in 2013 and 21-61 in 2014.
The Lakers have only won 65 games in three years. Some teams, especially teams in the West, nearly win 65 games in just one season. Despite all of that, the Lakers want to bring Ingram, a kid who can potentially play a big role in turning the franchise around, off the bench.
“If there’s 10 games left in the season and out of the playoffs and there’s some vets that played long minutes all season, maybe you play all your young guys to finish out the season,” said Walton. “But when you’re going through the season, you’re not doing anyone any favors just by playing young guys so they can play if they’re not out there playing the right way.”
It all comes down to this — Luol Deng or Ingram?
Deng, 31, is a 12-year veteran who has had played an intricate role in playoff runs as a member of the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat. Deng has career averages of 15.5 points and 6.2 rebounds.
Ingram averaged 17.8 points and 6.8 rebounds in his lone season at Duke University and was named ACC Freshman of the Year. Ingram averaged 12.2 points and 4.2 rebounds in five games during the 2016 NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. Ingram scored 22 points and dished out four assists in the Lakers’ final Summer League game, a 92-88 loss to the Utah Jazz on July 15.
Ingram and Deng are both 6-9 small forwards. Deng is 220 pounds, giving him a 30-pound advantage over the wiry rookie. They’re both products of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s disciplined Duke Blue Devil system.
Deng is most likely going to be the starting small forward for a few weeks, maybe even months, making him the only starter in the 30-and-over club for the Lakers.
Nonetheless, Ingram is going to get a lot of playing time. The kid has been compared to Kevin Durant on many occassions because of his versatile scoring ability for crying out loud. If the Lakers want to compete in the standings, Ingram will eventually be a starter. He is just too good not to be.