Heading into Friday night’s summer league finale, Brandon Ingram had done lots of things well but not had a singular strong performance. His best game in the four previous contests to that point was the Lakers’ Vegas opener where he scored efficiently and played a nice all-around game. But even that game was just sort of a let-the-game-come-to-me sort of performance rather than one where he actively tried to take control.
That approach changed on Friday against the Jazz and, boy, was it fun to watch. Ingram finished the night 22 points on 13 shots, grabbed 5 rebounds, and dished 4 assists. Down the stretch he made key plays, but more than that showed a certain assertiveness throughout that was great to see. Just watch the highlights:
Beyond those clips showing how smooth a game he possesses as both a scorer and a passer, what stands out most to me are all the little things he does well and how he consistently makes the play in front of him rather than forcing the action. At no point does he seem rushed or panicked, not even when dealing with pressure defense or in the face of a second defender lurking or right on top of him.
He worked out of the triple-threat well, showed a wonderful ability to drive left or right, flashed strong footwork in initial and counter moves, and consistently made correct reads with passes to teammates. Also on display was his spacial understanding — relocating on the weak side to create passing angles, driving to spots on the floor where he can either get his shot off or draw the type of help which opens up teammates for easier shots and then delivering the pass.
This sort of all-around game is expected of such a high pick, but to see him put it together really was nice.
Throughout the previous four games Ingram seemed mostly content to be patient and play a complementary role. Considering he was mostly sharing the floor with Russell (and, to a certain extent, Nance and Zubac), taking that type of approach was fine. The coaches praised him for letting the game come to him. But with Russell (and Nance) sitting, Ingram brought a more aggressive approach. He called for ball reversals to get him catches in preferred spots, chased back to the ball, and then actively looked for his own shot.
It will be interesting to see this type of continued growth throughout pre-season and into the regular season. Ingram clearly has game. Meshing that with more experienced players and doing so from what will likely be a reserve spot will be challenging. But that’s a later discussion. For now, it was just nice to see him get his game going and show what he was capable of.