One of the most highly sought after recruits in the country is a slender multi-talented 6’9” basketball player with a pterodactyl like wing span, large in stature but gifted with a guards shooting touch and ball handling skills. Sound familiar? Duke Blue Devils freshman sensation Brandon Ingram’s mold and game are eerily reminiscent of another gangly 6’9” freshman scoring machine who took College Basketball by storm, former Texas Longhorn and current Oklahoma City Thunder dynamo, Kevin Durant.
Comparing an 18-year-old college freshman to a former NBA MVP and scoring champion might seem a bit ambitious, but watching Brandon Ingram the resemblance is undeniable. Start with the physical.
Both carry a tall, rail-thin physique with lanky Stretch Armstrong appendages. At the NBA draft combine following his freshman season at Texas, Durant measured 6 foot 9 inches tall with a ridiculous 7’4.75” wing span. Ingram is currently listed 6-foot-9 with an almost equally absurd 7’3” wing span. Though tall and rangy, neither is an awkward looking athlete. They appear to glide up and down the floor effortlessly.
Brandon Ingram shares more in common with Durant than a similar body type. Parallel to Durant, Ingram boasts a silky smooth jumper. He utilizes his height and a high release point to get off quality looks overtop of smaller defenders. Ingram owns a sweet stroke that plays well in the midrange and extends to long distance. He’s shooting a tidy 40 percent beyond the three point arc. The constant pull-up threat forces defenders to play Ingram tight, leaving them exposed to getting beat on the drive.
Ingram takes full advantage of overzealous defenders, flashing past them off the dribble. He’s got a slick handle and excellent ball control. A deceptively quick first step coupled with his massive stride gets Ingram to the hoop in a hurry. Ingram’s got a feathery finishing touch around the rim, capable of finishing with either hand. Watch out if he gets a clear launching pad, akin to his counterpart Durant, given the opportunity Brandon Ingram is a ferocious dunker. Ingram has posterized more than a few unfortunate opponents this season.
Ingram certainly passes the eye test when it comes to the Durant comparison, but do his numbers back it up?
Durant had a truly transcendent freshman campaign, averaging an astronomical 25.8 points, 11 rebounds, 1.9 blocks, and 1.9 steals a game. Though not quite as remarkable, Ingram’s 17 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.5 blocks, and 1.1 steals per contest are still impressive totals. Durant’s substantial scoring edge makes a little more sense when put into proper context.
Ingram is simply not afforded as many shot opportunities as Durant was. Ingram averages only 12.9 attempts a game compared to 18.5 for Durant. When broken down by shooting percentage Ingram’s numbers stack up just fine. Ingram shoots 46 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 point range, nearly identical to Durant’s 47 percent overall and 40 percent from deep.
In addition to his offensive prowess, similar to KD, Ingram is a serviceable rebounder and defender. As he ages Ingram will likely improve in both areas. Currently listed at only 195 pounds, Ingram needs to add some extra bulk. Luckily, his wiry frame could easily facility another 20 to 30 pounds of solid muscle. Ingram already possesses good defensive instincts. He routinely jumps passing lanes and uses his long arms to deflect passes. Those extend-o arms also make him an irritant to see over and around on D, as well as a capable shot blocker.
Observing Brandon Ingram’s game, his skill level is evident. That said the scariest part about him is that he’s barely scratching the surface of his ability. Watching him play is like hopping in a time machine and seeing a young Kevin Durant tear it up at Texas. It’s all there, the size, athleticism, ball handling, sharp shooting, rebounding, that’s why the comparison makes so much sense.
If someone looked into a crystal ball and told me in five years Ingram would be scorching opponents in the NBA I wouldn’t be surprised, and neither should you. The way I envision it, with the proper development and progression, Brandon Ingram has the potential to be Kevin Durant 2.0.