LA Lakers choose Duke’s Brandon Ingram with No. 2 pick
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Brandon Ingram’s teenage frame is remarkably skinny. The Los Angeles Lakers still think he can shoulder the burden of being a franchise cornerstone.
The Lakers selected the lanky Duke forward with the second overall pick in the NBA draft on Thursday night, adding another major piece to the rebuilding club’s young core.
The 6-foot-9, 190-pound Ingram spent one season at Duke, averaging 17.3 points and 6.8 rebounds as the ACC’s freshman of the year. Pro scouts were tantalized by his 41 percent shooting on 3-pointers, and his thin build only heightened the comparisons to Kevin Durant.
After the 76ers chose big man Ben Simmons with the top pick, the Lakers eagerly grabbed Ingram as they rebuild from Kobe Bryant’s retirement and the worst season in franchise history (17-65).
“We’re ecstatic to have him,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said. “There is no ceiling on him. To date, he’s had a pretty good career in a pretty good conference for a one-year player.”
Ingram joins D’Angelo Russell — last year’s No. 2 overall pick — along with Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. on an intriguing roster assembled by Kupchak, who hopes he has built the foundations of the Lakers’ next powerful team.
The Lakers were the NBA’s worst 3-point shooting team last season. New coach Luke Walton hopes to install large portions of the Golden State Warriors’ offensive approach, which means Ingram should get plenty of outside shots next season.
“We got the player that I wanted in the draft,” Walton said. “I don’t know if he’s the best (player in the draft) or not, but he’s the player I wanted, for sure. What he has the potential of doing, and what he can already do at his age with his length and skill, is very impressive and unique.”
Ingram’s frame was a concern to some scouts, and he realizes he must get bigger to maximize his NBA potential. He gained 25 pounds between high school and the NBA draft process, and he intends to put on more muscle this summer.
The Lakers already began the process of beefing him up during his visit to the team earlier this month. They took him out for two expensive dinners, and he was joined by Russell, Randle, Clarkson, Nance and Anthony Brown one the second night out.
“I don’t see concerns about his weight,” Walton said. “He’s young. He’ll naturally get stronger. ... Even though he’s skinny, he had strength to him in the individual workout that he did (for the Lakers).”
Walton also loves Ingram’s defensive instincts, even seeing similarities to Golden State’s vaunted Draymond Green.
“We didn’t coach him how to be such a phenomenal team defender,” Walton said of Green. “He just was, because he sees the game like that. It means that the player is pretty intelligent, and I think that Brandon fits that mold.”
When Ingram was asked what he can contribute to the Lakers in his first post-pick television interview, he immediately mentioned leadership. His character and commitment to teamwork has been credited to the influence of his father, Donald, a basketball referee.
He’ll need that strength of character if he hopes to be the next star for the 16-time NBA champion Lakers, who are starting near the bottom after the worst three-year stretch in franchise history.
Ingram joins Russell — Simmons’ high school teammate — in an elite club of just seven top-two draft choices in Lakers franchise history. Four of those selections are in the Basketball Hall of Fame, and a fifth — David Meyers — was traded for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.