The Lakers took another step into the future by drafting Duke’s Brandon Ingram with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.
Between selecting Ingram and using the 32nd pick, General Manager Mitch Kupchak and head coach Luke Walton gave their thoughts on the newest Laker.
Below is a transcription from the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo:
Q: On comparisons between Ingram and Kevin Durant:
Kupchak: Obviously it’s unfair. I can see why people would make the comparison. I think they’re both gifted players. If you look at their time in college as freshmen, the similarities are striking in terms of size, body build and body type. But beyond that, Brandon has a long, long way to go. He’s got a lot of work in front of him. Having said that, we’re ecstatic to have him. He visited with us about 10 days ago, worked out in this gym. We had a couple of dinners with him and got to know him, so we’re pleased. I’m excited about having him in Los Angeles, and we’re hopeful we can get him here in a week, introduce him to (the media) and get him in Summer League.
Q: On if he received trade offers for the No. 2 pick:
Kupchak: As you might imagine, there’s a lot of interest in the No. 2 pick. Much was made about a so-called “cliff” between (picks) one and two, then a drop. That’s not always the case. There are a lot of good players in this draft. In particular if you looked at the top 10 players, it’s a very, very talented group. Brandon was the one that came in and visited. We didn’t know for sure until 10 minutes ago that Brandon would be available at No. 2. So up until 10 minutes ago, there was just a little bit of anticipation, although this is what was expected.
Q: On what the team saw from Ingram in his predraft workout:
Kupchak: The workouts were against nobody other than what we call a “1-on-0 workout.” We had our assistant coaches — some of whom were young enough to still play. So they participated in the workout and provided a little bit of a 2-on-2 kind of atmosphere. But (we measure) his skill level, his length, his athleticism — we do a lot more than just play; a lot of individual skills, ball handling up and down, running, shooting the ball. You can only see so much in 1-on-1, 2-on-2 against your assistant coaches. We also do a battery of physical testing — 8-10 different tests designed to establish quickness, foot speed, jumping — things that you might imagine would be important on the basketball court. We had two dinners. The first dinner was much more formal because it’s the first time we met him. But at the second dinner, five or six of our players showed up somewhat unannounced. We mentioned to them at this building that we were going to have dinner that evening. They were free to come and join us. And Julius (Randle), D’Angelo (Russell), Jordan (Clarkson), Anthony Brown and Larry Nance all showed up for dinner. And they all sat around Brandon and the older people moved to the other side of the room and the younger people kind of hung out together. It looked like they all got along well, so that was good.
Q: On moving on in the post-Kobe Bryant era:
Kupchak: Despite the fact that we’re losing an icon that’s been with us for 20 years, this is a new chapter going forward. We’re going to miss Kobe to no end. I still look back on it and it’s hard for me to imagine that he’s not going to be on our roster and not on my board in our office. Having said that, we have to move on and we have a new coach. We’re moving into a new facility about two blocks from here that’s going to make this facility look tiny. It’s going to be state-of-the-art. Our coaching staff and players got considerable experience last year. Brandon needs to work, get stronger and get himself progress as quick as possible. But I think the other players are ahead of schedule.
Q: On if there is one part of Ingram’s game that impressed Kupchak most:
Kupchak: I wouldn’t say there’s one thing. I guess if I had to pick one thing, it would be potential. We’re not picking a player that hasn’t played much and kind of came off the bench and you’re kind of trying to project what he may turn into — we’re picking a player that played at what some might say is a very established college basketball program.* He played big minutes. He started in an excellent league with excellent competition. In that regard, there’s been a lot that’s already been proven. We look at him and his age and his body type and his willingness to work and be coached. We think (with) his upside and the potential in him — right now there is no ceiling on him. But to date, he has had a pretty good career in a pretty good conference for a one-year player.
*Note: Kupchak went to North Carolina, the rival school of Duke.
Q: On why they didn’t trade the No. 2 pick:
Kupchak: Obviously there’s nothing that piqued our interest, although at this time of year teams are serious. They recognize that the second pick is valuable. Hopefully we’re not in this position again. And we realized that the pick is valuable. The third and fourth picks are valuable. On the way down, they get less and less valuable. But clearly at the top these picks have a lot of value. We listened. Yeah, there were a lot of calls. There’s nothing there that made sense for us to consider.
Q: On if the Lakers would have taken Ingram if they had the first pick:
Kupchak: It’s hard to say because we did not get the other player (Ben Simmons) to come in and work out for us. 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.
Q: On if he feels that they drafted the best player available:
Walton: We got the player that I wanted in the draft. I don’t know if he’s the best or not, but he’s the player I wanted for sure. What he has the potential of doing and what he can already do at his age with his length and skill set is very impressive and unique.
Q: On how much he was able to watch Ingram while coaching with Golden State during its playoff run:
Walton: I’ve seen him play in college games and the (NCAA) Tournament. I’ve seen some highlights that (the Lakers) sent me and some highlights on the internet. You can tell pretty quickly, when a kid is that special, what he can do on a basketball court.
Q: On if he sees Ingram as a potential leader:
Walton: I like it. It’s a very important aspect to what causes winning in this league. You need leadership. You need cohesiveness. You need chemistry. And everything I’ve heard about this kid — he brings all those to the table along with his skill set.
Q: On if he is the kind of player that the offense can be run through:
Walton: It’s too early to say that. I think eventually you can. But he’s coming in as a young kid in a man’s league. Obviously we’re gonna expect him to have an impact for us this season, but we’ll kind of take that as it goes.
Q: On concerns about him being too thin for the NBA:
Walton: I don’t see concerns about his weight. He’s young. He’ll naturally get stronger. Talking to some of the coaches that were here when he came and did his workout — even though he’s skinny, he had strength to him in the individual workout that he did. So that’s good to hear and that’s not a concern of mine.
Q: On how best to develop the Lakers’ young players:
Walton: Hard work. That’s how you succeed in anything. We’re going to put together a great staff here. We have young players that are talented and, from what I understand by talking to them in the three days that I’ve been here and watching them show up every day, even though it’s only June, getting there work in on the court and in the weight room, I expect them to get better individually and as a team.
Q: On what he expects from the Lakers’ young core:
Walton: I’m not putting expectations on it. It is a young core. I think this now gives us seven players under contract. So there’s a lot that still needs to be filled out. But to me, I’m putting the focus on how hard we’re working; how the staff is helping improve them individually; how we’re getting them to buy in the system and the culture that we’re trying to create here. Those are things that I feel if you focus on, the wins will just start coming.
Q: On what impressed him most about Ingram:
Walton: His ability to make reads on the court defensively is one of the favorite things I’ve seen him do. Whether that’s switching onto different players or coming on the weak side and blocking shots — a lot of that is timing. It’s tough to coach. Kids that are really good at it kind of have a knack for doing it. We have a kid up in Golden State, Draymond (Green), who we didn’t coach to be such a phenomenal team defender. He just was because he sees the game like that. It means that the player’s pretty intelligent. And I think that Brandon fits that mold.
Q: On the types of players he wants to put around the young core:
Walton: You need some vets for sure; some leadership on the court. Even if it’s vets that aren’t playing big minutes, as a coaching staff it’s our job to hold them accountable. As a player, you learn just as much if not more from the vets on your team when you’re young and trying to find your way on how to do things the right way and how to work and what should be done on long road trips to take care of yourself — and all these things. A lot of that comes from veteran leadership. I think that we will be searching out some guys like that. Obviously with the cap space we have, we’ll be searching out some All-Star caliber players as well. You kind of try to make a nice mixture of all that.
Q: On finding a balance with how many veterans to add:
Walton: There’s not an answer for that, I don’t think. I think it’s a feel thing. We’re going to stress competition here. We’re going to compete. If that means a young guy that we’re developing isn’t out there developing the way he should be, then he’s got to get out of the game. There’ s no reason to let someone develop if they’re not developing the right way. We’ll be sure to do that and do our best to win every game we’re in.
Q: On if it is easier to build a certain culture when most of the players are at a similar moment in their career:
Walton: I don’t know if it’s easier. This is obviously new for me, but it’s exciting. I know that much. I love the fact that we have young guys that are hungry and trying to prove themselves still. That’s exciting for me and I think it’s going to make this challenge and this journey fun.