Ingram had been classified as a SG for most of the year, but is now considered a SF. That makes some sense, because he’s almost 6’10 with a 7’3 wingspan. It looks like he could handle either position, but with the league going smaller SF is where I’ll analyze him. I feel he fits in either position though and that adds to his value.
The last 10 years have been a golden era for SFs in the NBA. Most SFs who have been drafted in round one in the past ten years have done pretty well, especially if they entered the draft after their freshman or sophomore seasons. Here are those SFs and their freshmen stats with Ingram.
|Kawhi Leonard Fr.||523||205||16.3||12.6||5.1||0.8|
|Kawhi Leonard So.||478||291||19.0||13.0||5.4||1.2|
|Paul George Fr.||486||447||16.6||7.2||5.3||0.8|
|Paul George So.||485||353||20.3||8.7||7.3||0.9|
I left out Jabari Parker and Al-Farouq Aminu. Both are more PF-like players who don’t compare as well to Ingram. As mentioned above I also omitted players who entered the draft as juniors or seniors. That group has a much higher rate of failure than the younger prospects. This is a pretty impressive list. Durant is an MVP. Leonard was MVP runnerup. George is a perennial all-star. DeRozan is an all-star. Hayward and Gay are entrenched, productive NBA starters. The others are young and promising.
I think it is safe to put Durant and Leonard in the superstar category above the others. George is close, but not quite at their level. The thing that Durant and Leonard did exceptionally well as college freshmen was rebound. Both hit the boards as effective as a PF prospect might. Ingram was solid enough as a rebounder, but more like the rest of the non-superstar field. What Ingram did do was hit the 5.0 ASB40 level, which I use as a benchmark for SFs. Anything below 5.0 is considered a red flag. This says that Ingram fits in well with the all-star SFs, but is unlikely to hit superstar level.
Something else I need to mention about Ingram is the progression of his season. He was a different player in different months.
After a slow start, which isn’t uncommon for freshmen, Ingram went on a tear in December and January establishing himself as a prospect who might challenge Ben Simmons as the top player in the draft. In February and March, his efficiency fell off the cliff.
Look at the minutes per game. Ingram started playing extremely high minutes starting with a 42-minute game in an OT loss to Utah on 12/19. I wonder if the drop in efficiency happened because he was worn down from all the minutes he played. The other possibility is that teams figured out how to defend him and he didn’t adjust.
Looking at his game log the cold streak started with a 3-15 performance against Georgia Tech on 2/2 and didn’t end until the NCAA tournament when he started to come out of it, hitting .486 on 35 2-pointers. Was it just a cold streak? Was it the defenses adjusting to him? Was he tired from a heavy workload in his first NCAA season? Is it a combination of all 3?
The positive spin would be that for 2 months Brandon Ingram was an incredibly efficient scorer while still doing all the important things a SF prospect needs to do like defense and passing. The whole stat package remains pretty impressive and the fact that he looked like he was starting to get it back during the tournament is a good sign, as is the fact that his other numbers didn’t suffer during the streak.
In the final analysis Brandon Ingram remains an excellent NBA wing prospect. The efficiency nose dive in February is a little troubling, but not enough to think he’ll be a bust if drafted in the top 2 as is expected to happen. He brings the size/stat profile that says he’ll be an all-star at either wing position. His 7’3” wingspan makes him a player who could defend any position on the floor. There are many good things about Brandon Ingram as a prospect, but on the question of upside I can’t put him on the level of Ben Simmons and for that reason I would not draft him ahead of Simmons.