With Brandon Ingram’s return to the starting lineup, the Lakers are better equipped to deal with the league’s more rangier defenders and get another playmaker back in the absence of Lebron and Rondo. Ingram typically is the most polarizing player for Laker fans as his fit next to Lebron isn’t as easy to see compared to his teammates.
While Kyle Kuzma with his slip cuts to the rim and Josh Hart with his catch and shoot prowess continue to excel on the offensive end, Ingram has quietly been instrumental to the Lakers success on the defensive end. Brandon’s on ball defense was great at the start of the season but as the season has gone on, it has gotten into ELITE territory.
Of all non-center players who defend 10+ shots on average per game Brandon Ingram ranks THIRD in DFG%. Better than Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jrue Holiday, and Paul George.
Since his return to the starting lineup, Ingram has been holding opposing players to a 28% shooting percentage which is the BEST IN THE LEAGUE during that stretch (last 6 games)
His elite level play on that end has resulted in Luke utilizing him in a more expansive way which in turn has helped his teammates who are not as defensively proficient.
The “Roaming” Help Defender
The new wrinkle in the Lakers defense that Luke Walton has introduced is a defensive strategy utilized by Steve Kerr with Draymond Green. One of the elite defensive qualities of Draymond is how well he can affect shots without getting in foul trouble. In small ball lineups he functions as an additional help defender at the rim. That in turn results in offensive players attempting shots at the rim against both the current defender (Klay, Durant, Iguodala) and Draymond in a help defender role.
What makes the defensive scheme work well is that Draymond is elite at reading when and when not to help.
What makes it easier for him is that Kerr specifically has him defend NON-SHOOTERS as Green doesn’t have to worry about recovering back as the Warriors are fine with giving up an open three to a bad shooter instead of a layup.
Luke Walton has been utilizing Brandon Ingram in the same kind of roaming defender role as Draymond. While Draymond spent much of his help defender role at the rim contesting drives, Luke has Ingram occupying the area around the free throw line contesting opposing players shots.
In the recent matchup against the Kings, we saw the strategy early on as the Lakers had Ingram on Ferrell. Once Ingram sees Pope get buried behind the screen, Ingram immediately rotates over and challenges Bojan’s shot
Later in the game, Ingram rotates along the free throw line (again being tasked with Ferrell) and helps contend Bjelica’s post play after the offensive rebound
When Brandon gets paired against a player who doesn’t cut and hangs around the perimeter, he is even more effective as a help defender and the game against Memphis was indicative of that.
Early in the game Ingram hovers right around the free throw line while Temple stands around the three point line. As soon as Gasol commits to a shot, Ingram quickly affects his shot with his length leading to a miss
Later in the game we see a sequence where Ingram covers for his teammate because he is patrolling the free throw line like he is supposed to. He quickly attaches to Jackson taking away a short jumper and making him have to take a floater over Zubac
In the Memphis game alone there were 15 shots (by my count) where Brandon disrupted the offensive player with his help defense
With his defensive profile as an on-ball defender growing with experience, the coaching staff is using Ingram in more advanced schemes and trusting him with responsibilities that you don’t typically see with players his age. Ingram is responding to the additional responsibilities with quality defensive play.
Ultimately Brandon’s already advanced level play on that end of the court is helping the Lakers rank #10 in Defensive Rating as a team and though fans may be divided about his fit offensively, it is clear his defense isn’t lacking and is absolutely integral in the Lakers being successful.