Brandon Ingram, the heralded ACC Freshman of the Year from Duke, was drafted No. 2 overall by the Los Angeles Lakers in the 2016 NBA Draft Thursday. Ingram, 18, is the Blue Devils’ third top-three pick in the past three years. North Carolina senior Brice Johnson is also headed to Los Angeles as the Clippers selected him with the 25th pick. Johnson’s teammate, senior Marcus Paige, went late in the second round, at No. 55, to the Brooklyn Nets, who quickly traded his rights to the Utah Jazz.
Ingram averaged 17.3 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2 assists and 1.4 blocks in 34.6 minutes per game in his season at Duke. He was the Blue Devils’ leading scorer in the NCAA tournament, averaging 23.0 points, 6.3 rebounds and 2.7 assists in three games as the Blue Devils lost to Oregon in the Sweet 16.
“Brandon was a special player this year at Duke, and his best basketball is still ahead of him,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said in a statement. “I have absolutely loved coaching Brandon because he is a no-maintenance player who loves and respects the game.”
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With a 6-foot-9 frame, a 7-3 wingspan and the ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor, Ingram has the ideal build for today’s NBA, which values length, versatility and shooting. According to Draft Express and data from Synergy Sports Technology, Ingram connected on 42 percent of his catch and shoot jumpers on the year (1.247 points per possession, 3rd best among all draft prospects behind Oklahoma’s Buddy Hield and Kentucky’s Jamal Murray). His left-handed release is smooth, as Ingram is good as using his length to get his shot off against smaller perimeter defenders. He is an apt ball handler and passer as well, especially for someone his size.
The only main concern with Ingram is his currently stick-thin frame. He came to Duke last summer weighing about 167 pounds and added 23 pounds before the season started. He will need to continue to add weight as he grows into his frame. When asked about his slender frame just after his pick was announced, Ingram reminded ESPN reporter Lisa Salters that he was only 18.
“I have an inner strength no one knows about,” Ingram said.
Once Ingram is more physically mature, it’s easy to envision him as a matchup nightmare, just as he was in college. He is bigger than normal guards and too quick and skilled for post players. There is a reason observers spent the year comparing Ingram to Kevin Durant.
“Right now, there is no ceiling on him,” Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak told reporters.
Ingram joins Jahlil Okafor (third overall to the Philadelphia 76ers in 2015) and Jabari Parker (second overall to the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014) as recent top-three picks from Duke. Ingram is the 21st lottery pick under Mike Krzyzewski and 32nd first-round pick, the most under any active coach.
Johnson went later in the first round, going to the Los Angeles Clippers with the 25th pick. Johnson was a consensus first-team all-American, averaging 17 points and 10.4 rebounds per game. At 6-foot-10, 209 pounds, Johnson has NBA-level athleticism that allows him to run the floor well and play effectively around the rim. According to Synergy Sports Technology, Johnson shot almost 75 percent around the rim in his senior year. Johnson was one of the best rebounders in college basketball as well, thanks in large part to his leaping ability.
Johnson is the 16th UNC first-round pick under Roy Williams.
Paige was a surprise pick at No. 55 in the 60-pick draft. The pick was made by the Nets but moments later was traded to the Jazz. The senior is most known for his basketball IQ and knack to make timely plays (like his double-clutched 3-pointer that tied the national championship game seconds before Villanova’s last-second game winner). He operates well in pick-and-roll sets, a staple of most NBA offenses. Paige only has average size (6-2) and athleticism for an NBA guard and struggled through a prolonged shooting slump his senior year. But he will attempt to make up for what he lacks physically with the intangibles that led him to become one of the most beloved UNC players in recent history.
N.C. State junior point guard Cat Barber and Duke senior center Marshall Plumlee both went undrafted and will undoubtedly try to earn a place in the NBA through summer league auditions.