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Brandon Ingram

Lakers Summer League Preview

Summer League is a ton of fun. Diehard fans from across the league converge on Las Vegas to give an enthusiastic welcome to their teams’ latest 1st Round picks, in a convention-style atmosphere that brings every component of the basketball world to the same place. You’re just as likely to stand behind a current or former NBA player/coach in line to get a beer & hot dog as a fellow fan. Last year, I got to shake Nick Van Exel’s hand and tell him that he was my favorite player growing up before scurrying away in starstruck embarrassment. I laughed as I listened to an overzealous Toronto Raptors fan sing “I’m In Love With Caboclo” at the top of his lungs to the tune of the O.T. Genasis hit “CoCo” until the perpetually two-years-away-from-being-two-years-away Bruno Caboclo acknowledged him with a laugh. How often do you get to watch games with the fans of dozen different teams who are so rabid that they know pretty much every player on YOUR team’s’ roster? This environment, combined with getting together with friends, both old and new, amidst the usual fuckery of Vegas makes Summer League a necessary pilgrimage for any hardcore fan.

But how much does the basketball matter?

Lonzo Ball & the Rookie Class

Lonzo Ball will surely be greeted with raucous enthusiasm as he makes his Lakers debut on Friday night, as the purple & gold take on the Clippers at 5:30pm PST, with no less than face of the franchise expectations and a stacked supporting cast. Lonzo has doubled down on this hype, expecting the Lakers to “win the whole thing“.

But he has a few obstacles to overcome if he wants to achieve this. The prospects at the top of the draft rarely compete in 1-on-1 settings leading up to it, much less in 3-on-3 or 5-on-5 situations. The scrimmages during the Lakers’ week-long Summer League practice schedule represent Ball’s first competitive 5-on-5 play since March, against much tougher and older opponents, with unfamiliar teammates, and a new playbook. Ball’s game is so predicated on having synergy with his teammates while being the most savvy player on the court that I expect him to struggle a bit, particularly in half court situations. The PGs who tend to thrive in Summer League are those with athletic advantages and the ability to drive to the basket against largely disorganized defenses. Kris Dunn was a future all-star at this time last year, as was Emmanuel Mudiay two years ago, and as such I expect guys like De’Aaron Fox and Dennis Smith, Jr. to look better in Summer League than Ball does.

Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma should have smoother transitions, both as older players and guys who mostly thrive off of the shot creation of others. Kuzma in particular may raise some eyebrows, as he will be able to show off his passing and improved pick & pop ability amidst spacing that he never enjoyed at Utah, as noted in my recent video on how he fits in with the Lakers. Despite his rookie status, Hart is older than six of his teammates on the Lakers Summer League roster, and has a 3-&-D + fill the wing type of game that shouldn’t be impacted much by this unique environment. Both Kuzma & Hart thrive in transition as well, so that may be the recipe for a Lakers Summer League title. If the rookies are able to get the requisite defensive stops that they’ll need to get out and run alongside their more experienced teammates, they’ll be in business. (Ssidenote: I will be making a drinking game out of how often Kuzma falls down while in Vegas. His tendency to do so is Hibbert-esque)

Thomas Bryant should be a bit more of an adventure. He’s capable of picking & popping in a way that’s simpatico with Ball’s tendencies and runs the floor well, but he has questionable defensive awareness and decision-making that may be exacerbated in a Summer League setting.

The “Veterans”

Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have the most NBA experience on the Lakers Summer League roster, making them the seasoned pros of the team at the ripe, old ages of 19 and 20. As such, the expectations on them are rightfully much higher. Last year, I heard an NBA Front Office executive mention that you start to worry about your 2nd year guys if they don’t look like the best players on the court in Summer League, under the premise that they’ve had the benefit of a full year in the NBA, with access to all of the strength, conditioning, knowledge, and coaching that it provides. While that is a bit reductive,  players like Devin Booker & D’Angelo Russell thrived, while Jaylen Brown has made quick work of the Utah Summer League this year.

It is fair to expect Brandon Ingram to be the best player on the team, after a season in which he played 2,279 NBA minutes, easily the most in his rookie class and the rest of this roster combined. I’ll be looking for him to continue the prowess that he demonstrated in attacking the basket toward the end of the year, while expecting an improved shooting stroke from 3-point range and the free throw line, as well as more disruption on the defensive end with his considerable length.

Zubac should be the primary beneficiary of whatever shot creation that Ball can muster, and I’d like to see him extending his range beyond the 3-point line. He is capable of hitting that shot, but it was under-utilized last year during the regular season, and the Summer League provides an excellent opportunity to get his feet wet in that respect. This, along with improved defensive awareness in pick & roll situations would constitute a successful Summer League for the big fella.

This week could be a bit of a coming out party for David Nwaba, whose defensive abilities can help the Lakers get out in transition, where he can fill a wing with the best of ’em in Vegas, and his feel for back-cut opportunities jives very well with the passing prowess of Ball and Kuzma. It may be too much to ask him to demonstrate a competent 3-point shot at this point, but that’s the only thing that stands in the way between him and a 10-year NBA career.


This is going to be the first time we’ll see the “Lakers” in any incarnation since April 12th, a stretch of nearly 3 months. We’re champing at the bit to get our first look at Lonzo, Kuzma, Hart, & Bryant, and see what improvements Ingram & Zubac have made. As a result of our eagerness, both the good and bad of Summer League are inevitably over-analyzed to an absurd degree. Every. Single. Year. Summer League is ultimately a mix of talented kids and journeyman veterans who just met each other, with a week’s worth of practice, with an assistant coach, all trying to showcase themselves for various leagues around the world. It barely qualifies as organized basketball.

So I’d suggest that you get out to Vegas this weekend if you can, set your DVR if you can’t, and treat any success that the young guys have as found money, while brushing off any struggles. But I know you won’t, and I’ll be arguing with someone about why Lonzo Ball isn’t the next Kendall Marshall at some point in the next week.

And that’s why I love you guys.

Post All-Star Game Offensive Numbers

By: Cranjis McBasketball


Closing the Season Strong

In a season without too many W’s in games, the Lakers most important wins this season have come in player development. The young players have made strides under Luke Walton and his staff, and it’s paid off with 3 wins in a row.

To take a look at exactly how the young guys have played since the All-Star break, I’ve listed their offensive points per possession (PPP) and the percentile that PPP places them versus the rest of the NBA for both before and after the break, so we can see the trend each player has taken.

Note: If a player is in the 70th percentile, that means that he’s performed better than 70% of the NBA

As an added bonus, I’ve also included a player comparison that has had that same PPP for this season.

Ivica Zubac

Trend: More Up than Larry on a Dunk


PPP: 0.900

Percentile: 35th

Comparable Player: Anthony Brown (!?!)

Post ASG

PPP: 1.027

Percentile: 77th

Comparable Player: Paul George

Larry Nance

Trend: Down


PPP: 0.988

Percentile: 67th

Comparable Player: Kristaps Porzingis

Post ASG

PPP: 0.955

Percentile: 55th

Comparable Player: Jeff Teague

Brandon Ingram

Trend: Up, Up, and Away


PPP: 0.794

Percentile: 14th

Comparable Player: Chandler Parsons

Post ASG

PPP: 0.953

Percentile: 54th

Comparable Player: Joel Embiid

Julius Randle

Trend: Up


PPP: 0.878

Percentile: 29th

Comparable Player: D’Angelo Russell

Post ASG

PPP: 0.930

Percentile: 46th

Comparable Player: Russell Westbrook

D’Angelo Russell

Trend: Up


PPP: 0.864

Percentile: 28th

Comparable Player: Dario Saric

Post ASG

PPP: 0.921

Percentile: 43rd

Comparable Player: Jamal Crawford

Jordan Clarkson

Trend: Slightly Down


PPP: 0.927

Percentile: 45th

Comparable Player: Devin Booker

Post ASG

PPP: 0.910

Percentile: 38th

Comparable Player: John Wall

Largest PPP Jumps

  1. Brandon Ingram: +0.159
  2. Ivica Zubac: +0.127
  3. D’Angelo Russell: +0.057
  4. Julius Randle: +0.052
  5. Jordan Clarkson: -0.017
  6. Larry Nance: -0.033


I’d put the six players into three tiers. Brandon Ingram and Ivica Zubac have made substantial jumps in efficiency since the All-Star break. D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle have made solid improvements. Unfortunately, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr. have regressed.

Let’s hope we can see continued improvement to close the season and this summer. Next season’s record should be vastly improved if next year these young Laker players can build on the progress they’ve made this year.

If each of these six players can perform next season like the better version of themselves between pre and post ASG, we can have a full year of players with the offensive efficiencies of Paul George, Kristaps Porzingis, Joel Embiid, Russell Westbrook, Jamal Crawford, and Devin Booker. That’d be fun.

LFR Tweets: Brandon Ingram Synergy Stats

The New Lakers Starting Lineup

The new Lakers starting lineup on Monday night came as a bit of a surprise, with Luke Walton benching the franchise’s two big free agent signings in favor of Brandon Ingram & Tarik Black. In this video, Pete Zayas takes a closer look at how they performed in the Lakers’ 121-107 win over the New York Knicks in Madison Square Garden, and how that may translate toward the future.

Lies, Damned Lies, and Brandon Ingram’s Advanced Statistics

By: VP Sinha

What advanced stats tell us about Brandon Ingramand what Brandon Ingram tells us about advanced stats.


Despite the debacle in Dallas, Lakers’ prized rookie Brandon Ingram has had a very nice January, now showing consistent flashes expected from the #2 overall pick. His stat line this month sits at a healthy 11.1 ppg on 53.2% TS%, including 14-35 (40.0%) from 3, 3.9 rpg, and 2.3 apg (to 1.2 topg). Yet even factoring in his 2017 renaissance, Ingram’s stat line more than halfway through his rookie campaign is a mere 8.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.1 assists on 45.9% TS%. All-in-one “advanced” statistics reveal a ghastlier picture: 7.7 PER, -0.01 WS/48, -4.2 BPM, and -5.44 RPM (-2.59 ORPM and -2.85 DRPM) – and his RPM is dead last in the NBA by a fair amount.

In general, it’s not wise to project a rookie’s success based on general numbers that don’t capture the nuances of a player’s situation or account for development. Players improve and work on their flaws, which limits the predictive value of a rookie season. Within the last three years, we’ve seen the architect of RPM compare Julius Randle’s skill set to Anthony Bennett’s as well as 538’s Neil Paine project Andrew Wiggins’ career impact to be similar to James Posey’s.  Sometimes, common sense should simply supersede what the numbers say.

But surely these numbers mean something, right? Jahlil Okafor averaged a fairly efficient 17.5 ppg as a rookie last year, passing many “eye tests,” but many advanced stats painted him as likely the worst player in the NBA in terms of on-court impact. One year later, it would seem that the advanced stats mostly had it right. So what gives?

Well, the short answer is that the NBA’s advanced stats are useful but flawed tools that always require context.

In the case of Ingram, we can find that his poor numbers reflect both his poor performance as well as limitations of advanced stats. Let’s take a closer look on some of the key numbers.


Scoring Struggles

When we look for explanations for why advanced box score stats (BPM, WS/48, PER) mark Ingram as one of the worst players in the league, we should begin with Occam’s razor: are there particular statistics (such as RBD% or TO%) in which Ingram places at the bottom of the league? If so, those are probably dragging his overall box score stats down. For Ingram, it’s his efficiency at an abysmal 45.9% TS%. The rest of his box score stats are unimpressive, but they are not particularly bad. So, odds are his abysmal advanced box score stats are mostly explained by TS%, and I don’t find it particularly illustrative to look at these all-in-one stats.

As we take a closer look at Ingram’s TS%, there’s no doubt Ingram has been very poor scoring this season as a whole, and what makes his efficiency more troubling is that his usage sits at a modest 15.7% – this is not necessarily the story of somebody being asked to do too much to the detriment of his efficiency. So if the goal is simply to evaluate his performance thus far, we would state that Ingram, on account of having difficulty throwing a pea into an ocean, has been a mostly terrible player and leave it at that. All-in-one box score stats just reflect this reality.

But for Lakers fans, what matters less is how he’s performed this season and how he projects to play down the line. Can we still expect him to become a star, or even very good, offensive player? Or was Tayshaun Prince a more accurate comparison than we’d like to admit? To better answer that question, just looking at TS% is not enough. We need to know how he is struggling and whether or not we expect that to carry forward. Is he having issues scoring at the basket, is his jump shot just absent, or both? Can we expect his shortcomings to improve?

As it turns out, the scrawny teenager’s issues do not include getting to and finishing at the basket. Ingram moves like a gazelle, and he glides through the smallest seams of the defense with ease to finish at the rim. Ingram finishes at a decent 55.2% of his layups, with just 31% of them assisted. The assisted rate is crucial: though Giannis Antetokounmpo made 62.1% of his layups as a rookie, 41% of those were assisted. Ingram finishes at a pretty decent rate despite creating more layups for himself than most other players. For comparison’s sake, rookie Kawhi Leonard shot just 49.6% on layups with 37%  of those makes assisted, and this season’s LeBron James makes 70% of his layups with about 35% assisted. Ingram also has healthy free throw rate of 0.347, even if his free throw percentage leaves much to be desired (67.2%).

Though Ingram lacks the burst and explosiveness of a Giannis or LeBron to attack the rim for dunks at the same rate, he’s already a crafty driver with some serious shake off the dribble. Despite this finesse, he seeks contact in a way that belies his frame. As he gains strength and improves his athleticism, we can expect to see more plays like this assault on the hoop. Based on his year so far, Ingram projects to be a dangerous slasher and finisher at the basket in his own right.

No, it’s not finishing at the rim that is driving Ingram’s TS% down. Rather, it’s his surprising inability to shoot. The thought was that out of college, Ingram will at the very least be a legitimate 3&D guy. Yet his 3-ball, and jump shot in general, is MIA. Per, he is shooting merely 29.7% FG% on both 2 point and 3 point jumpers, and most of his makes are assisted. His catch & shoot percentage rests at a poor 45.1% (all shooting percentages will be eFG% unless noted otherwise), and he’s worse pulling up at just 33.1%. Perhaps the most damning stat of them all — he shoots 42.3% on “open” and “wide open” shots. Prepare your eyes.

But going forward, this actually bodes well for Ingram. His shooting may never live up to his pre-draft comparison of Kevin Durant, but he has a smooth jump shot. Yellow flags about free throw percentage aside, Ingram was a great shooter in college (41% on 3s), and Coach Luke Walton consistently raves about Ingram’s lights out shooting in practice. We should be careful to draw conclusions from a small sample size, but January has Ingram shooting about as well as we’d all hoped. His catch and shoot percentage has skyrocketed to 58.1%, the sort of number you expect from a very good 3&D guy. That’ll drop some, and Ingram still should make tweaks to his jump shot to get his release point higher, but it gives us glimpses of the shooter that Ingram will grow into.

There was another scrawny, sweet-shooting forward who also struggled with his jump shot as a rookie, shooting 36.3% eFG% overall on jump shots, including 20.6% from 3. That player is now considered one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. I don’t mean to fall into the same trap as with the Durant comparisons by bringing up Dirk Nowitzki. Rather, it’s reason to remain optimistic about Ingram’s shooting ability as his jumper is tweaked and refined by NBA shooting coaches. The Mavs legend also serves as a template for the Laker rookie to learn to shoot more effectively over smaller defenders.

Meanwhile, Ingram consistently shows precocious ball handling and the ability finishing at the rim, as well as playmaking ability: it wasn’t until Dirk’s 5th season that he surpassed Ingram’s assist percentage (10.4%) by a significant amount. The degree to which Ingram’s jump shot translates will determine how just how effective he’ll be offensively, but it is comforting to know the rest of his game won’t be a huge limiting factor. The sky is still the limit for the 19 year old.

Understanding Ingram’s League Worst RPM Numbers

ESPN’s RPM is quite different than other frequently referenced stats, and it is worth investigating it specifically. The details of its construction are worthy of its own post and I won’t get into them now. But what makes RPM interesting is, after using a BPM-type stat as an initial guess of how good a player is, it doesn’t use box score numbers to make its evaluations. Rather, it considers how well the team performed with a player playing versus without him playing, adjusted for teammate quality and opposition quality. Of course, a player’s raw production plays a part in that, but if someone provides great screens, has gravity rolling to the basket, or can stretch the floor, then RPM may rate them favorably despite poor individual numbers. Last season, while some stats such as PER saw Okafor as an above average contributor, RPM rated him as the worst player in the league. For the most part, I agreed with this evaluation. Ingram has now replaced Okafor in RPM’s evaluation, and so it is perfectly valid to wonder whether there is cause for concern. To answer that question, we need to look more carefully at lineup data.

Consider the Lakers’ bench. For the first two dozen games or so, the Lakers’ strongest lineup was the full, healthy bench corps, which posted an ORTG of 108.9 and DRTG of 100.7, per In that unit, Ingram played alongside two attack dogs in Jordan Clarkson and Lou Williams while Larry Nance, Jr. and Tarik Black were happy to do all the dirty work. Ingram would sit behind the 3 point line, often not touching the ball for entire possessions. Some may argue he played a glue guy in this lineup, but that’s not quite true, and it is reflected in lineup data. Per, the 3-man unit including Clarkson/ Williams/ Nance has a net rating of +9.6 versus +5.4 when playing with Luol Deng instead of Ingram. If you replace Nance with Black, the 4-man lineup has a net rating of +10.4 with Deng (in a much smaller sample size) versus +5.0 with Ingram. The fact that these lineups play better with Deng undercuts the argument for Ingram being a necessary glue guy in bench lineups. Even though Ingram’s raw +/- looked good playing in this bench corps, RPM correctly ascertained it’s mostly due to his teammates rather than his own contributions. This is a good example of the considerations RPM uses to arrive at its numbers.

This reasoning explains his horrendous DRPM numbers (-2.85, ranked #432 out of 438), which may surprise people who find him a fairly advanced defender by age. Most lineups with Ingram instead of Deng are worse defensively. The rookie has the length to bother shooters and he has good defensive instincts, but he gets bullied in the post (0.90 ppp allowed, 47th percentile) and in isolation (1.08 ppp allowed, 18th percentile). Some of this can be attributed to poor help from teammates, but regardless, the experienced Deng is for now the better defender. Furthermore, the Lakers’ small ball lineups struggle defensively, so lineups where Ingram plays alongside Deng do worse defensively than those in which Deng plays next to a traditional 4. Finally, the Lakers are a terrible defensive team in general. That the team does even worse with him in most lineups speaks harshly to his defense. DRPM consolidates all of this information and reasonably concludes that Ingram is a terrible defender, even if we can see that much of that reasoning is circumstantial.

In contrast, it’s more plausible that RPM is right about Ingram being terrible offensively (-2.59 ORPM, ranked #405 out of 438). He isn’t a great offensive rebounder, he doesn’t create that much offense for teammates, and his individual scoring numbers have been terrible. Up until recently, teams were eager to sag off of him, so he wasn’t providing spacing either. Without doubt, there is truth to this fiercely negative evaluation. But another factor to be considered is Ingram’s role. Walton has accelerated the rookie’s development by giving him ballhandling duties and keeping him involved in the offense. We’ve seen Ingram improve as a playmaker, and he’s at a level where he can make sophisticated reads like this one, where Mozgov blew Ingram’s chance at recording 10 assists against the defending world champions.

But this playmaking came only after growing pains. With D’Angelo Russell injured for much of December, Walton leaned on Brandon Ingram to carry more ballhandling duties. He responded with his on court plus/minus dropping to -14 in December, despite most of his counting stats remaining steady. Take the starters, for example. With Russell, the starters post a net rating of +5.9, with an ORTG of 110.9 and DRTG of 105.0. With Ingram, that number falls to -39.9, with an ORTG of 71.4 and DRTG of 113.3. To be sure, that is partly due to a small sample size, and it probably says more about Russell than anything else. However, per, the top three lineups in terms of minutes with Ingram as a 1 or a 2 have a net rating of -23, -43, and -34. Notably, it’s the offense that plummeted in all three cases.

The point here is that Ingram has played terribly, and the stats reflect that. Part of why he was playing terribly is because he’s a poor offensive player as a rookie. But the other fact is he was out of position and forced to do things he isn’t good at yet. These decisions will ultimately benefit the #2 overall pick down the road; we are already seeing the fruits of it this January. Ingram is boosting his assist count while lowering his turnovers, all while creating more offense for himself off the dribble. But this sort of context is not covered by RPM, which is why I don’t worry too much about its gloomy prognosis yet.

Context is King

Charles Barkley might read this article and conclude, “Aha! I told you all along. Don’t bother with analytics,” but that is not the takeaway here. Some of the best statistical rookie seasons in the last 15 years were by such luminaries as LeBron James and Chris Paul. Blanket statements are never useful. Tyreke Evans and DeJuan Blair also had strong rookie seasons. Jahlil Okafor and Anthony Bennett had poor rookie seasons, but so too did Tristan Thompson and DeMar DeRozan. It’s far more important to understand what the numbers are telling us and how much we can expect those numbers to project forward. While Brandon Ingram has certainly did not have the first two months to his career that I’d hoped for, he hasn’t left me any less optimistic about his future. His January turnaround portends what looks to be a successful career.

VP Sinha, Writer (@shaqpropogation)– VP is a crazy talented stats guy who either understands the math behind BPM, RPM, etc, or at least has us convinced that he does. We don’t know for sure, our eyes kind of glazed over halfway through. His job at Laker Film Room is to help intertwine data with the film work in a cohesive manner.