Brandon Ingram ready to fire more threes in 2020-21, after a major jump last season
En route to his first NBA All-Star selection, Brandon Ingram more than tripled how frequently he shot three-pointers, going from 1.8 attempts per game in 2018-19, to 6.2 in his debut season with New Orleans. By the sounds of it, the 23-year-old forward still may have another level to reach this winter in terms or prolific firing from beyond the arc.
“They want me to shoot more threes and are comfortable with me shooting more threes,” Ingram said Saturday of the Pelicans’ new coaching staff led by Stan Van Gundy. “I’m doing everything (in terms of shooting from different areas) on the court. I know where my shots are coming from and I know how to create my own shot.”
The NBA’s Most Improved Player in 2020-21 was also one of its most improved shooters, showing gigantic increases in three-point percentage (33.0 to 39.1) and free-throw percentage (67.5 to 85.1). His improvement in the latter statistic ranked near the top of the leaderboard over the past 30-plus seasons, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
“Brandon had one of the biggest jumps we’ve seen,” Van Gundy said Saturday of Ingram’s rapid strides as a shooter in ’19-20. “He shot a lot more threes than he ever shot, and made them at a lot higher level, a lot more free throws at a higher level. You’re going to add to your efficiency a great deal.”
Indeed, Ingram finished with a true shooting percentage of 58.7, up significantly from a solid 55.5 the previous season (it was just 47.4 as a Lakers rookie). Over one-third of his total shots from the field were treys, while he sliced the chunk of mid-range shots he took (defined as from 10 feet to the arc, via Basketball Reference) from 35 percent to 27 percent.
“His comfort zone has always been mid-range,” Van Gundy said, “but the more he can attack the basket with his size and get to the free throw line, and the more he plays off his three-point shot, the better off he’s going to be.”
As the Pelicans’ leading scorer and primary offensive threat, when he looks back at last season, Ingram believes he could’ve been a more aggressive driver and drawn more fouls, an area where the Duke product also improved (6.3 attempts, compared to 5.9 in ’19-20), but by a modest margin.
“I could’ve gotten to the basket more,” Ingram said. “In previous years I’ve gotten to the basket a little bit more. But I plan to play the game based on how the defense is playing me. Knowing that I have confidence at all three levels (paint, mid-range, three-point line).”
Asked about what his comfort level might be in launching even more from deep, Ingram noted that some of his shot selection will be determined by where he’s excelling, as well as how defenses are strategizing against him. He averaged 25.3 points last season, including 11 games of 30-plus points.
“Whatever is going,” Ingram said of his plan of attack. “If I’m knocking down mid-range all night, I’m not coming out of the mid-range. If I make five threes, I’m going to shoot 10 threes. Whatever I’m feeling that night, or whatever confidence my teammates have in me, I’m going to shoot the ball and keep letting it fly.”