Brandon Ingram has found his rhythm over the last five games, scoring double figures in each contest while averaging 16.3 points on 50.0 percent shooting.
The key behind all of this? Ingram’s 7-foot-3 wingspan.
While he has shown an improved jumper this season (hitting 38.9 percent from 3-point range), the vast majority of his shots have come in the paint, where the 20-year-old has been under much more control compared to his rookie year.
Over the past five games, he is finishing at the cup (19-of-30 in the restricted area), crashing the glass (5.2 rebounds) and getting into passing lanes (2.2 steals).
Throw in 11 deflections and six loose balls recovered, and it’s clear that Ingram has a better grasp on how to use his length — something that has been a point of emphasis from President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson and head coach Luke Walton.
Here is a taste of how he has put that on display during this stretch.
OK, let’s take a look at five different ways Ingram has put that length to work.
Naturally, length is mostly considered synonymous with wingspan. However, in Ingram’s case length also has so much to do with his gazelle-like legs.
Here, Ingram is guarded by a versatile defender, Evan Turner, with only a few seconds left in the half. Turner thinks Ingram will use a screen from Brook Lopez, but the 20-year-old crosses the other direction, as his long strides leave Turner way behind the play.
Having beaten the initial defender, center Jusuf Nurkic steps up to try and stop Ingram’s drive. He gets the 20-year-old to pick up his dribble at the free throw line, but those giant steps still allow him to get to the rim.
That’s when the arms come into play, as he extends to the cup and flips the ball over Nurkic’s outstretched arm and into the hoop.
This one starts with a poor job of boxing out from James Ennis III. Ingram doesn’t appear to be crashing the glass, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a threat to get the rebound.
The ball takes a favorable bounce on the rim, and Ingram immediately sticks out his arm to knock it his way.
His length allows him to corral the board even while taking an inadvertent shot to the face from Ennis. Ingram stays with the play and finishes a tough sequence with an easy laup.
“I think I’ve been doing an OK job of it right now, but I think I can be even better using my length, drawing fouls going toward the basket,” Ingram said after beating Memphis. “(I’m) still working.”
Ingram’s length typically gets attention when he’s attacking the rim — something he’s done a lot of this season. However, it’s on full display on this jump shot against Utah.
The sophomore gets a switch out pick-and-roll, which is typically good news. However, now he is guarded by Defensive Player of the Year runner-up Rudy Gobert, whose own wingspan (7-foot-9) is the longest in the NBA.
B.I. has a small window to slip the ball to a rolling Lopez, but decides not to tempt a turnover against Gobert’s endless arms.
Instead he pulls up from the foul line and pits length against length. Ingram uses (and needs) every inch of his wingspan on this shot, releasing the ball at the very top of his jump. The result is a pretty, high-arcing shot that swishes through.
Now to the defensive side, where Ingram once again must contend with Gobert.
One of the best screeners in the game, Gobert sticks Lonzo Ball on a pick, forcing Lopez to contain Ricky Rubio’s penetration.
This frees Gobert for one of his signature alley-oops, but Ingram — monitoring a corner shooter — sees the danger and rotates over.
He gets there with plenty of time and is able to essentially able to leap over Gobert, using those long arms to bat away the lob and turn an easy basket into a potential fast-break.
“He made a couple plays at the end of the Utah game in the second half, and then all night tonight his length … he was using it,” Walton said after beating Detroit. “He was making plays, deflections. I think he ended with four steals tonight.”
On this final play, Ingram atones for his own mistake, as he gets swatted on an ill-advised layup attempt.
This means that Ingram starts at the very end of the court as Brooklyn pushes the fast-break the other way. DeMarre Carroll has a five-foot head start on Ingram, but the young Laker hustles down the court with his long strides.
Jordan Clarkson slows Carroll down in the paint, and that’s all that Ingram needs to finish the play in front of Carroll for a violent rejection that smacks the ball past the free throw line.
It’s a spike that Walton, his volleyball-loving coach, can be proud of.