Lakers rookie Brandon Ingram got more than just a passing grade during his pro basketball debut earlier this month at the summer league in Las Vegas.
NBA coaches and scouts on hand said they saw an 18-year-old with enough talent on both offense and defense to be successful in the league. They witnessed a young player with moxie, competitiveness and a willingness to learn.
The one question mark about Ingram — the No. 2 overall pick in the draft out of Duke — is how well his willowy 6-foot-9, 190-pound frame will hold up against stronger players.
But Lakers Coach Luke Walton liked what Ingram showed on the court.
"He's a really intelligent player," Walton said. "He can pass a lot better than I would have guessed, as far as just making the easy and right read off plays. He would come up and ask what our coaching staff thinks he can do better, where he can focus on improving and learning the NBA game.
"So, to me, a kid that young and that talented that wants to learn as bad as he does and is willing to work as hard as he is, that's what I really was watching at summer league."
Ingram played five games at small forward and averaged 12.2 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 27.4 minutes per game. He shot 41.2% from the field, 25% from three-point range and 71.4% from the free-throw line.
"I saw a good-looking prospect," an Eastern Conference scout said of Ingram. "There were some games where he excelled, and there were some games where he struggled. But overall . . . he's a matchup nightmare.
"You see a guy that can create his own shot. He has unrivaled length [for his position] with great ball skills. That's a hard combination to find. I think the sky is the limit for him."
On opening night of the summer league, when the Lakers played New Orleans, Ingram provided a peek into what he's capable of, scoring 12 points on an efficient five-for-nine shooting, plus one assist and one steal.
His 7-foot-3 wingspan helped Ingram block two shots against the
But he was tested the very next night against Philadelphia and its No. 1 overall pick,
Ingram's shot betrayed him, as he missed his first eight attempts.
He stayed confident and knocked down three of four shots in the fourth quarter, and was unafraid to take a potential go-ahead three-point attempt late in the game, only to miss.
"To be 0-for-whatever and then still come in the fourth quarter and hit some big shots and take them — he didn't ever pass a shot up — he showed the type of mentality he has," Walton said.
"He's not afraid to fail, which is a big deal," the Eastern Conference scout said. "I think it was a draft of like three can't-miss guys — Ingram, Simmons and [ point guard] Kris Dunn — and the Lakers got one of them."
The Philadelphia game also gave an indication of how teams will play Ingram.
Ingram was defended by small forward Jerami Grant. Listed at 6-8 and 210 pounds, Grant was able to push Ingram around the court.
Then in his next game, Ingram appeared to be laboring from having played his third game in four nights. The physical play was seemingly taking a toll.
In that game, he missed all five of his field-goal attempts against Golden State and finished with just five points.
"Every time somebody got physical with him or leaned on him, he just wilted. He just kind of folded. And he was kind of like that the rest of the summer league," a Western Conference assistant coach said of Ingram. "It's going to be interesting to see how he adjusts to the NBA. The summer league is not the league.
"Guys are going to be trying to punk him anyway just because he's coming in with a name. He's going to have a target on his back. And he plays for the Lakers."
Ingram knows he has to gain weight and get stronger. During his workouts before the NBA draft, Ingram said he was eating six meals a day totaling 5,000 calories.
"Most kids his age . . . haven't fully grown into their bodies yet," Walton said. "I'm more excited about his basketball skills than I am concerned about his weight."
As the summer league progressed, Ingram continued to improve.
He played his best in the Lakers' final game against Utah, demonstrating his versatility by running much of the team's offense while point guard D'Angelo Russell rested.
Ingram hit the Jazz with 22 points on nine-for-13 shooting. He was two-for-three on three-point attempts, and had five rebounds and four assists.
And he was given another opportunity to learn as a member of the USA select basketball team that practiced against the U.S. Olympic team recently.
"It's a difference between being soft and being weak. He's just weak right now. He's not soft, by any stretch of the imagination," a Western Conference head coach said of Ingram.
"The kid is skilled. He's got a good basketball IQ. He's going to be more than fine. I think the Lakers got themselves a big-time player who is going to be around a long time."