Brandon Ingram has been good lately. How good, you ask? So good, he has certain people around the NBA believing he’ll be better than Rookie of the Year favorite Ben Simmons.
Brandon Ingram is rolling. A few execs told me at @SloanSportsConf they think Ingram will end up better than Ben Simmons. The reason cited is that Simmons doesn’t shoot well, whereas Ingram is a more versatile offensive threat.
It’s worth noting O’Connors sentiments were conveyed a couple of days ago. Ingram has since suffered a hip flexor injury and may not be able to play when the Los Angeles Lakers take on the San Antonio Spurs this Saturday.
Still, this minor setback isn’t likely to have butchered this towering evaluation. Many people, after all, believe Simmons is already contending for an All-NBA spot, and that he has the ceiling of a top-10, maybe top-five, player. Giving Ingram the edge over someone like that isn’t something you just do on a whim.
As for whether this projection will hold true, or even carry any merit whatsoever, we don’t know. Simmons may never develop a jump shot, which gives Ingram a clear advantage. He’s not a lights-out three-point slinger by any means, but he’s putting down 38 percent of his triples for this season, and 47.7 percent of his outside looks over the last 22 games—not insubstantial sample size.
That the Lakers experiment with Ingram as a primary ball-handler only helps his case. He’s miles away from being a pick-and-roll whiz, and Simmons remains by far the better playmaker, but this isn’t an Anthony Davis vs. Giannis Antetokounmpo situation. Most are inclined to role with Antetokounmpo in that discussion, even as Davis’ jumper progresses, because the former controls a larger share of the offense by default. While a similar gap exists between Simmons and Ingram, it isn’t nearly as stark; Ingram’s assist percentage this season, as a complementary playmaker, is roughly half that of Simmons, who plays point guard.
Things don’t look so good for Ingram on defense. He has some switchability to him, but he’s not strong enough to challenge small-ball 4s or even bigger 3s. Though Simmons suffers from typical rookie miscues, he has the mobility and size—and just enough length—to guard all five positions. Take that factoid, along with his playmaking, and he doesn’t need a jumper to win this argument. Ingram’s recent upswing is encouraging, but he still has some significant ground to make up if he’s going to win this battle of “Who will have the better NBA career?”