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In the end, Ingram fits right into Lakers' needs, vision

POSTED: Jun 24, 2016 7:22 PM ET

By Scott Howard-Cooper

BY Scott Howard-Cooper

NBA.com

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All Access Interview: Brandon Ingram

Brandon Ingram talks with Jared Greenberg after being selected #2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers.

— Brandon Ingram had been a Laker since before the draft. Unofficially and potentially, but definitely already being worked in the fold. That much was clear as a group of executives and coaches took him to a steakhouse in downtown Los Angeles earlier in the month, a get-to-know-you meal typically part of the itinerary when top prospects come for a workout. Five players also arrived as well in a move that is not typical.

Ingram at No. 2 was the obvious path all along, on the assumption the 76ers would stay with Ben Simmons as the first pick. So the Lakers were treating lngram like he was one of them two weeks before the Draft. It was a dinner and a statement: After this much wreckage for this much time, there is no time to waste to get to the future.

Thursday night inside Barclays Center, Ingram became an actual Laker as soon as Philadelphia followed through and took Simmons to open the draft, and the L.A. plan inched ahead. D'Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt, Julius Randle and Ingram at forward with the chance for another forward, Larry Nance Jr., to show his encouraging rookie season was not a fleeting moment.

Simmons is The Man, the best talent in the draft and the kind of unique player as a 6-10 ball handler that his presence alone would have caused sleepless nights for opposing coaches plotting counter moves to the individual matchup, let alone once Simmons started zipping passes on the run in the game itself. While there may have been some debate about the decision, choosing the Australian by way of high school in Florida and one season at LSU was the right call, most front offices agreed.

The truth is, though, that Ingram is a better fit for the Lakers than Simmons.

Simmons in L.A. would have been great theater, and that's important in the land where memories of a Magic-al oversized point guard live on, but he needs the ball as a distributor to be most effective, the same as Russell. Simmons as a Laker would have taken away much of what Russell already does with the potential to become a great passer.

Simmons' arrival would also have been the position duplication of Randle at power forward, after the 2014 lottery pick averaged 11.3 points and 10.2 rebounds in just 28.2 minutes in what was essentially his rookie season. Maybe they could have played together. Maybe there would have been issues.

Ingram, meanwhile, is seamless. He is scoring and especially three-point shooting for a team in great need. He is a small forward, an open position. There are no concerns about his attitude, the way one general manager said Simmons has a prima donna attitude and others who have watched him say he carried himself as entitled.

"The competitive side is that I wanted to go No. 1," Ingram said. "But I always said No. 2 wouldn't be bad. But of course I'm going to try to play like the No. 1 player and become the best player I can be."

There is no quest to show the 76ers they made a mistake -- "I have a lot of respect for those guys" -- but the comparisons will come naturally for many years. There was a clear top tier of two players in the draft. Welcome to the start of the running totals for their careers.

Meanwhile, the obvious question will remain unanswered, at least for a while: Would the Lakers have taken Ingram over Simmons with the No. 1 pick?

"It's hard to say because we did not get the other player to come in and work out for us," general manager Mitch Kupchak said at a press conference near Los Angeles after the draft. "That's something that we tried to do. And our feeling was that it may have been a commitment, so that would have been a nice thing for us to do, which would be to get him in here, work him out, interview and go to dinner with him twice and get some reassurance as to which direction we wanted to go. Going into it based on what we felt, we felt we would be very lucky to get Brandon into this city and this organization."

Which is what they officially got Thursday night. Brandon Ingram became an actual Laker and it was time to get on with the future.

Scott Howard-Cooper has covered the NBA since 1988. You can e-mail him here and follow him on Twitter.

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