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PBT’s 2016 NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Brandon Ingram

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Brandon Ingram spent most of his high school career as a kid with loads of potential due to his physical tools but without the strength, coordination or skill set to quite tap into them.

That changed during his final season in Kinston, and by the time he got to Duke, he was considered by many to be the only freshman in the country that belonged in the same conversation as Ben Simmons and Skal Labissiere. After a terrific season with the Blue Devils where he was forced into playing as a small-ball four, Ingram impressed enough that there is a faction of scouts that still think he’s a better pick at No. 1 overall than Simmons.

How can a guy that weighs less than 200 pounds at nearly 6-foot-10 be considered a potential top pick, and what is it about Ingram that makes him so enticing at the next level?

Height: 6′ 9.5″
Weight: 190
Wingspan: 7′ 3″
2015-16 Stats: 17.3 points, 6.8 boards, 41.0% 3PT

STRENGTHS: Ingram’s combination of perimeter ability and physical tools is something you rarely see anywhere. His height (6-foot-9.5) and his standing reach (measured at 9-foot-1.5 at Hoop Summit) are numbers that would be considered good for potential NBA centers. Ingram is a small forward with the potential to lineup at the shooting guard spot at the next level. NBA scouts look at him and see a player that can potentially guard small-ball fives in three years.

He’s a prototype “big” for what many think the future of the NBA looks like, because in addition to those physical tools, he happens to be a terrific perimeter scorer. Ingram started the year in a bit of a slump, but in December, Duke’s starting power forward suffered a season-ending injury and Ingram was forced into the front court. He became borderline-unguardable for long stretches, as there were times where he was the biggest player on the floor for the Blue Devils. He’s too tall for wings to guard and he’s too quick and mobile for bigs.

His skill-set starts with his ability to shoot the ball. He finished the year hitting 41.0 percent from three despite the slow start, and his catch-and-shoot PPP was 1.247, which isn’t all that far behind the pace set by Buddy Hield and Jamal Murray. More than a third of his offense as a freshman came in spot-up situations, but Mike Krzyzewski took full advantage of the inability of defenses to matchup with Ingram. Better than 36 percent of his offense came in ball-screens (as the handler), dribble hand-offs and isolations, not to mention the opportunities he was able to get in transition. He struggled a bit with his decision-making, which is natural when you’re being asked to force the issue in a role you haven’t played before. He also lacked the strength and explosiveness to consistently beat defenders to the rim and finish through contact (more on that in a bit).

That said, he already has the mobility the play on the perimeter, and his offensive repertoire — his ball-handling, footwork, jab series, understanding of double-moves and counters — is advanced for someone his age and size. All things considered, Ingram’s performance made it very easy to project him as an above-average perimeter scorer in the NBA.

The other thing that impressed about Ingram is that, while he didn’t have the strength to physically handle some of the bigger players he faced, the toughness was there. The competitiveness was there. Not having the strength to push back is different than not having the desire to fight back.

WEAKNESSES: At this point, the single-biggest weakness in Ingram’s game is his weakness.

Duke listed him at 190 pounds this season, and that was after he put on nearly 20 pounds his first summer on campus. But it’s important to remember here that Ingram is a “young” freshman. He doesn’t turn 19 until September — half of the class of 2016 is older than he is — and he’s already a late-bloomer. He grew nearly eight inches during high school and was never really considered this caliber of prospect until Coach K unleashed him a month into the season.

Ingram has the frame and the broad shoulders needed to carry 230-240 pounds without getting to a point where he is too heavy. And assuming he is able to add that weight, it should significantly help him in some of the areas that he struggled the post: Holding position in the post, on both ends of the floor, and finishing through contact offensively. According to Synergy, he shot under 47 percent on runners, shots around the rim and post-ups despite drawing a fair number of fouls.

The other area that Ingram struggles is with his explosiveness, and this won’t be answered quite as easily as the weight issue. His first step isn’t overly-quick and he’s not an explosive leaper, which is part of the reason he had some issues in his pull-up game this season; he shot 30 percent on pull-ups, per Synergy’s logs. He was able to get by people at this level because of his length — both his strides and his arms — but that tends to even out at the NBA level.

That will develop as he continues to grow into his body — he still moves at times like the gangly, awkward teenager he is — but even with the help of an NBA strength and conditioning program, he’s never turning into Andrew Wiggins. And it’s that athleticism aspect that will determine whether Ingram becomes a player that is simply used to take advantage of a mismatch or an elite NBA scoring threat.

Defensively, Ingram is still a bit of an unknown. He was bad for long stretches last season, but Duke’s utter lack of depth put them in a position where Ingram could not afford to foul or to expend much energy defensively.

NBA COMPARISON: Kevin Durant is the lazy answer here, right? He’s a tall and skinny all-american whose ability to almost entirely centered around his perimeter game. Their profiles are similar, and given the uniqueness of their skill sets, using Durant isn’t a bad baseline as long as you understand there’s not a chance that Ingram can end up being as good as Durant, who is a generational talent and a top five player in the NBA. He’s Diet Kevin Durant, if you will.

Two other names to consider here are Tayshaun Prince and Giannis Antetokounmpo. He’s already a better shooter than Antetokounmpo and he’s a more well-rounded scorer than Prince, but if you’re trying to get an idea of role and impact, it’s them.

OUTLOOK: I don’t think that Ingram has a ceiling as high as Simmons’, but the difference is that I think Ingram is significantly more likely to reach that ceiling. And while he may never turn into a franchise-altering talent, I think he’s an ideal fit for the Lakers, assuming Luke Walton decides to bring the Warriors’ style of play down the coast with him.

The key with Ingram isn’t whether or not he can add the weight (I think he will) or how well his ability translates to the next level (he’s going to be a weapon, that’s for sure), the question is going to be just how much his athleticism catches up to his skills. Remember, he was 6-foot-2 as a high school freshman and has the physical profile of a guy that, even five years ago, would have been a post player. He’s also the youngest collegiate player in this draft, turning 19 in September. He hasn’t fully grown into his body yet.

So what happens when he gets into the NBA’s strength and conditioning programs? Does he get quicker? Does he get more explosive? Does that lateral mobility come around? Does he get more shifty in the lane? Can he better handle contact around the rim?

I don’t think he ever becomes Kevin Durant. I’m not sure there will ever be another Kevin Durant. But I do think that Ingram’s floor is as a starter on a playoff team while his ceiling is as an all-star and a second- or third-option on a title contender.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

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It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

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The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

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Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

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I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

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Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

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As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).