Los Angeles Lakers: Why Brandon Ingram Is Now The Obvious Choice

Jan 9, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) reacts after hitting a three point shot in their game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2016; Durham, NC, USA; Duke Blue Devils guard Brandon Ingram (14) reacts after hitting a three point shot in their game against the Virginia Tech Hokies at Cameron Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-USA TODAY Sports /

While fans were initially enamored with LSU’s Ben Simmons, it’s become clear that the better fit for the Los Angeles Lakers is Duke’s Brandon Ingram.

What I’m about to say will draw some harshly negative reactions from Los Angeles Lakers fans and basketball fans, but it’s absolutely true: the Lakers, as currently constituted, do not need a Ben Simmons.

That’s not to say Simmons isn’t a phenomenal player who — despite having his lone collegiate season sabotaged by a coach who didn’t know how to play him, a mediocre supporting cast that offered little to no support and academic eligibility issues — still managed to put up an ultra-impressive stat line of 19.2 points, 11.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 2.0 steals per game on 56 percent shooting.

He’s clearly a dominant all-around player with a skill set that looks like LeBron James meets Blake Griffin.

I’ll even go as far as to say that despite fans not getting to see arguably the best player in college basketball in its ultimate coronation, Simmons is still just that — and the rightful No. 1 pick in June’s draft for most teams, barring any injury issues.

Having said all that, I just can’t get over what an awful fit he would be with this current Lakers roster.

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Despite some initial concerns, the trio of D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson have overcome their initial struggles to develop chemistry and thrive in a Kobe-centric environment and begun to show signs that they can be a solid, viable core in the immediate and distant future. Adding Simmons to that mix creates more confusion than excitement for multiple reasons.

Although Simmons and Russell played together at Montverde Academy for a few years, their shared facilitating abilities would cause conflict as one would inevitably have to move off ball and neither have shown the ability to be as dynamic off ball. Simmons would also clash heavily with Randle on the floor, as they are essentially the same size and stature with the same affinity for attacking the basket.

I get that he’s arguably the most complete player to come around in a while, but the match just doesn’t make sense from a basketball standpoint — especially when the Lakers have a better option in Duke forward Brandon Ingram.

I had my doubts about Ingram’s game towards the start of the season. He’s been a solid shooter from outside all season long, but he lacked the ability to put the ball on the floor in one-on-one situations and often waned against notable opponents. In the second half of the season, he’s done more than enough to erase those doubts.

Playing in the toughest conference in college basketball, Ingram put up 16.0 points per game while shooting 42.5 percent from the field and 37.8 percent from three. He’s also shown solid ability as a rebounder and defender, posting double-doubles against ranked teams in Miami, Louisville and North Carolina as well as averaging 1.5 blocks a night in conference play.

What seems to separate him from Simmons is that Ingram has a sense of the moment and plays up to it, as evidenced by his dominant second half on the road against the Tar Heels.

If the Lakers are fortunate enough to defy the odds and land a top three pick in this year’s draft, Ingram is the obvious choice, regardless of where the team is picking.

The team doesn’t need a world beater in this year’s draft; they just need a wing who’s a solid 3-and-D player at the least. Ingram’s 41.3 three point percentage, 1.4 blocks per game and 1.1 steals per game on the season show he can be that and then some.

His unique frame (6’9″, 190 pounds) will be enough to give opponents problems with both of those things, but he’s vastly improving his ability to put the ball on the floor and has shown enough strength to finish in traffic.

At the least, he’ll be a solid 3-and-D player; at the most, he’ll make those early Kevin Durant comparisons seem more warranted than not.

A quartet of Ingram, Russell, Randle and Clarkson would stand to be one of the best young cores in the league, rivaling that of the Minnesota Timberwolves. With all four boasting All-Star potential and skill sets that coincide marvelously, it wouldn’t be long before they developed chemistry and became a force to be reckoned with in the league.

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I get it: Simmons’ vast array of skills combined with God-given physical gifts make him an awfully enticing prospect. But if Ingram is on the board, the Lakers have a very obvious choice to make with their top three draft pick.