What Is Wrong With Brandon Ingram?

Brandon Ingram has struggled during his rookie season with the Lakers, but it's not a bad thing.

Brandon Ingram was the consensus second overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but he's failed to live up to expectations so far.

He was supposed to immediately come in and show off his prolific scoring ability that we saw on display in his only season at Duke, but that has yet to happen.

What's Been Going Wrong?

The Los Angeles Lakers are in a tough spot.

They have a roster mixed with youth and veterans, but do not currently own their first-round draft pick in 2017 (unless it falls in the top three of the draft lottery). Although the Lakers seem to be in a position where they need to focus on winning, head coach Luke Walton has emphasized that development was the major key for this squad.

It appears Walton's plan is to bring Ingram along very slowly. His current usage rate is 15.4%, which compares similarly to Mike Muscala, Otto Porter, and Nik Stauskas. There is no player with a similar usage rate who is averaging more than 13 points per game. While Ingram's points per game average is low (8.1), it's important to keep in mind that it can only go up from here, and an increase in usage rate will generate more opportunities to score.

In his lone season at Duke, Ingram had a 25.6% usage rate and a 22.5 player efficiency rating while averaging 13.4 field goal attempts per game in 34.6 minutes per game. So, as he's adjusting to life in the NBA, another thing he's likely getting used to is figuring out how to make an impact each night with the ball in his hands less often than normal.

Kevin Durant Comparison

Ingram was seen as a safe pick with an extremely high ceiling because of his shooting ability when the Lakers selected him last June. He was even earning comparisons to Kevin Durant, a lanky prospect that could shoot the lights out, handle the ball and create his own shot.

Despite that, Ingram hasn't been able to find his outside shot through 45 games. Let's look at how the shot distance from he and Durant compare in their respective rookie seasons.

Category Brandon Ingram Kevin Durant
FG% from 0-3 feet .589 .607
FG% from 3-10 feet .276 .376
FG% from 10-16 feet .380 .341
FG% from 16-plus feet .322 .415

Durant was much more efficient around the rim and beyond the arc, but he also put up a ton of shots (1,366 in 80 games). Ingram has only shot the ball 337 times in 45 games. Even if that total is doubled, he will still have 692 fewer shots than Durant in his rookie season.

Let's also not forget that Ingram is currently sharing the floor with D'Angelo Russell, Louis Williams, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Nick Young -- who are all known to shoot their fair amount of shots. Durant only had competition in this department from guys like Chris Wilcox and Wally Szczerbiak.

These two compare a bit more similarly to Durant when diving deeper into the numbers.

Category Brandon Ingram Kevin Durant
nERD -5.9 -7.1
EFF -3.6 -2.0
FG% 37.10% 43.0%
PPG 8.1 20.3
Offensive Rating 96 100
Defensive Rating 115 110

Ingram's nERD -- numberFire's metric that measures a player's total contribution over course of a season, based on efficiency -- is currently the worst in the league, but that doesn't mean he's a bust. Not all rookies can come in and immediately dominate like Joel Embiid.

Ingram's offensive and defensive ratings both rank in the bottom 10 of the league, but he can find some comfort in knowing that Durant's were 10th- and 52nd-worst in the NBA, respectively. DeMar DeRozan is another example of a current All-Star who struggled as a rookie, finishing with a -2.6 nERD (along with -5.2 and -5.7 in his second and third year, respectively).

So, it is not time to hit the panic button yet.


It's worth keeping a close eye on Ingram throughout this season. Walton kept him in during the final minute of a 102-97 loss to the Detroit Pistons despite his struggles on that particular night (5 points on 1-of-7 shooting) because learning how to deal with those situations is important. As he gains experience, we might start seeing improved confidence out of the youngster.

He has already shown some improvement since the calendar flipped to January -- over his past nine games, Ingram's true shooting percentage is 57.3%, which is a substantial increase compared to what he's done all year (46.2% in 45 games). Furthermore, he finished with a true shooting percentage over 60% in four straight games from January 5-10 for the first time this year.

Could a breakout be on the way? It's possible, which is why it's important to remain patient as he adjusts to a new level of play.