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Warriors vs Lakers Key Matchup: Is Brandon Ingram the next Kevin Durant?

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Brandon Ingram has impressed early this season and another matchup against the Warriors has us wondering how the two players compare.

NBA: Los Angeles Lakers at Golden State Warriors Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

The Warriors and Lakers square off in their third meeting this year on Friday night. If the first two games were any indication of what we could expect, then this third matchup will be a highly contested, sloppy affair. Aside from that, we will get to enjoy another Kevin Durant versus Brandon Ingram battle.

Ingram has taken a jump from his rookie season to his sophomore season and although he is still raw, he has shown some flashes of superstar potential.

Last summer, Durant had high praise for Ingram:

I’m a huge fan, first person I can say that I can look at him and feel like I’m looking in the mirror. I’m rooting for him

He’s a little bit more fluid than I was, as far as skill-wise, a little more advanced than I was at that time. I was just running, jumping, shooting threes.

Ingram was often compared to Durant when he entered the league, primarily based on his similar build. Durant is obviously at a different point of in his career than Ingram, so let’s take a look at how the two players compare in their first two years in the league.

Physical Profile

Kevin Durant came into the league with a slim frame but has since bulked up from 220 lbs to 240 lbs. Though Durant still has a slim frame, he has noticeably built more muscle mass since his first few years.

Draft Day Comparison

Player Height Wingspan Weight
Player Height Wingspan Weight
Kevin Durant 6'10" 7'5" 220 lbs
Brandon Ingram 6'9" 7'3" 195 lbs
nbadraft.net

Aside from the slight weight discrepancy, both players measure up with a similar profile. The wingspan of both players measures out with a plus six inch reach between their respective height and wingspan.

A long wingspan can benefit a player on the defensive end by being able to stretch into passing lanes and close out better on defenders. On the offensive end, a player with a long wingspan will often get their shot off at a higher apex making it a bit more difficult to defend.

Think about Kevin Durant’s patented transition three-point shot. It’s nearly impossibly to defend or block. The ball’s exit point is so high that it is difficult for a defender to close out, especially if their momentum has already taken away from the player.

Ingram’s wingspan should help him on both sides of the ball if he can continue to show improvements on both ends of the floor.

Rookie to Sophomore year jump

This is only Ingram’s second year in the league, so we only have about one and third of a season to compare between the two. I gathered a few key stats between the two players to show their progressions from rookie to sophomore seasons.

Can you guess which stats belong to Durant and which belong to Ingram?

Player 1

Year Three-Point % Effective FG % Rebounds Assists Usage % PPG
Year Three-Point % Effective FG % Rebounds Assists Usage % PPG
Rookie 28.8% 45.1% 3.5 2.4 28.1 20.3
Sophomore 42.2% 51.0% 5.5 2.8 28.3 25.3
basketball-reference.com

Player 2

Year Three-Point % Effective FG % Rebounds Assists Usage % PPG
Year Three-Point % Effective FG % Rebounds Assists Usage % PPG
Rookie 29.4% 44.2% 4 2.1 16.8 9.4
Sophomore 34.8% 47.6% 5.6 3.2 22.0 16.3
basketball-reference.com

Ok, so it really wasn’t that hard to figure out. Player one is Durant and player two is Ingram. Durant has the noticeable edge in points per game and effective field goal percentage. However, if we dig into the numbers a bit more, you will notice Durant maintained about the same usage rate between his first two years while Ingram showed a jump from 16% to 22% of the offensive plays running through him.

Durant has maintained a fairly even usage rate hovering around 30% over his career. Ingram on the other hand may find it difficult to command that level of usage with all the young talent on the floor for the Lakers. Ingram currently ranks fourth on the team is usage rate this season behind: Jordan Clarkson, Brook Lopez, and Julius Randle.

Durant has proven himself as an alpha in his team’s offense as well as in the NBA, having nabbed multiple scoring titles and a league MVP. While Ingram may not appear to be the clear go to guy in the Lakers offense, his statistical progress demonstrates that the Lakers are putting more trust into his game.

Young Durant vs Brandon Ingram: Shot Breakdown

If we dive even deeper into Ingram and Durant’s shot selections from their first two seasons, we see some common patterns.

Kevin Durant Shot Selection

TEAM AGE RESTRICTED AREA - FGA FG % IN THE PAINT (NON-RA) - FGA FG % MID-RANGE - FGA FG % LEFT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % RIGHT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % ABOVE THE BREAK 3 - FGA FG %
TEAM AGE RESTRICTED AREA - FGA FG % IN THE PAINT (NON-RA) - FGA FG % MID-RANGE - FGA FG % LEFT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % RIGHT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % ABOVE THE BREAK 3 - FGA FG %
SEA 19 4.8 59.4 1.7 36.3 2 33.8 4.4 42 2.6 33.7 1.6 29.7
OKC 20 5.1 67.5 1.8 39.8 8.8 39.5 0.1 37.5 0.2 33.3 2.8 43.1
nba.com

From year one to year two, Durant saw a bump in his mid-range shots as well as a modest bump in shots in the restricted area. Additionally, Durant’s three-point shots from the top of the arc saw a jump in efficiency. Only about 15% of Durant’s shots came form three-point range his first two years. Most of Durant’s scoring came from the restricted area and the mid-range.

Brandon Ingram Shot Selection

TEAM AGE RESTRICTED AREA - FGA FG % IN THE PAINT (NON-RA) - FGA FG % MID-RANGE - FGA FG % LEFT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % RIGHT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % ABOVE THE BREAK 3 - FGA FG %
TEAM AGE RESTRICTED AREA - FGA FG % IN THE PAINT (NON-RA) - FGA FG % MID-RANGE - FGA FG % LEFT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % RIGHT CORNER 3 - FGA FG % ABOVE THE BREAK 3 - FGA FG %
LAL 19 2.7 58.5 1.3 27.9 2.3 37.2 0.5 42.4 0.6 32.6 1.3 24.5
LAL 20 6.4 58.6 2.1 18 3.1 39.6 0.3 28.6 0.4 30 1.1 38.7
nba.com

Similar to Durant, Ingram shifted most of his shots to the restricted area and in the mid-range. Ingram slightly drew away from the 3-point shot and his increased usage rate has been utilized by attacking the basket. Also like Durant, Ingram increased his 3-point efficiency by a large margin from the top of the arc going from 25% to 39%.

Both Durant and Ingram saw similar progressions in their shot selections going from year one to year two. Over the course of Durant’s career, his shot selection has steadily increased from three-point range going from 15% his rookie year to approximately 33% in 2017.

Although there is a small sample size, Ingram’s percentage of shots from 3-point range dropped from 27% his rookie year to 12% this year. This is a bit of an unusual trend given the state of today’s NBA.

Concluding Thoughts

It’s hard to foresee what Ingram may become several years down the road but the progressions made during his sophomore campaign have us all wondering what he may become.

Ingram is one of many young and talented players in the Lakers lineup which may hurt his Durant comparison. However, that may change depending on who the Lakers front office prefers to commit to long term.

Durant himself said that Ingram was ahead of him now compared to where Durant was at when he entered in the league. We will just have to wait and see.