Lakers, Ingram Look Toward Building Future

Brandon Ingram has heard the criticism.

Scouts and media members applaud his ever-stretching wingspan and pinpoint shooting ability, but — even minutes after being drafted — his thin, 195-pound frame comes into question.

Ingram’s first interview as a Laker on Thursday included a comment about how skinny the 6-foot-9 18-year-old is.

But Ingram is fine with outsiders suggesting he pack on a few pounds.

“It just gives me motivation to show these guys that the skinny part doesn’t matter,” Ingram said in a conference call with the Los Angeles media. “It got me here today. I was the No. 2 pick, of course. Being skinny didn’t mean anything when I was battling each and every guy each and every night.”

Indeed, his frame didn’t stop him from averaging 17.3 points at Duke en route to being named ACC Freshman of the Year.

For what it’s worth, his new head coach, Luke Walton, didn’t express an ounce of worry about his lankiness.

“I don’t see concerns about his weight,” Walton said. “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.”

Ingram’s frame and knack for outside scoring has drawn comparisons to seven-time All-Star Kevin Durant, whom he grew up a “really, really big fan of.”

General Manager Mitch Kupchak acknowledged the “striking” similarities between the two, but cautioned that “Brandon has a long, long way to go” before he is on the level of the 2014 MVP.

However, Kupchak sees plenty of promise in the second-overall draft pick who shined at Duke, particularly in the NCAA Tournament, where he averaged 23.0 points on 45.1 percent shooting.

“He played big minutes,” Kupchak said. “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.”

Walton — who only joined the team three days before Draft Night since he was part of Golden State’s playoff run as an assistant — saw that same capability in the highlights that the Lakers sent him and that he found online.

“You can tell pretty quickly, when a kid is that special, what he can do on a basketball court,” Walton said.

Walton called his length and skill set “very impressive and unique,” then zoned in on Ingram’s potential on the defensive end.

Though the two are extremely different players, Walton compared Ingram’s natural feel for defense to Draymond Green’s.

“It’s tough to coach,” Walton said. “Kids that are really good at it kind of have a knack for doing it. We have a kid up in Golden State, Draymond, 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.”

Walton doesn’t expect Ingram — who took a few games to get comfortable in college — to immediately become the focal point of the Lakers’ offense, but he does see him gradually making more of an impact.

The former Blue Devil himself expects that his malleable game will benefit his teammates as well as himself.

“I think if I have a lot of attention on me, it gets other guys open, and I know all those guys work on different things in the offseason,” Ingram said. “I expect to see those guys’ numbers go up on their percentages, not just me.

“Being able to shoot the 3-ball — I know (Jordan) Clarkson can shoot the ball. D’Angelo Russell can shoot the ball and of course Anthony Brown can shoot the ball. Just seeing a lot of guys shoot the ball well. It’s not just my percentage going up. It’s everyone’s percentage going up.”