The phone rarely stopped ringing. But just because Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak fielded what he called “a lot of interest in our No. 2 pick” on Thursday, the Lakers chose the conventional route and chose Duke forward Brandon Ingram.
Part of the reasoning sounded simple.
“Obviously there was nothing that piqued our interest,” Kupchak said on Thursday at the Lakers’ practice facility in El Segundo. “This time of year, teams are serious. They’re recognizing that picks are valuable. Hopefully we’re not in this position again and we recognize that the pick is valuable.”
The Lakers fielded the No. 2 pick for the second consecutive year after preceding a season with their worst record in franchise history. It seemed no surprise they used it on Ingram, who won the ACC’s Freshman of the year award during his lone season at Duke partly because of his outside shooting and defense. Ingram shot 41 percent from 3-point range, while often defending the opposing team’s top scorers.
The Lakers also became impressed with Ingram’s versatility during individual workouts and two subsequent dinners. At the second dinner, Kupchak said the Lakers’ young roster in D’Angelo Russell, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr. and Anthony Brown attended.
“We look at him and his age (18) and his body type, his willingness to work and be coached,” Kupchak said. “We think the upside and potential in him, there is no ceiling on him. But to date, he has had a pretty good career in a pretty good conference.”
Kupchak admitted that Ingram “needs to work and get stronger” after having a listed 6’9, 190-pound frame. Yet, Kupchak argued “it’s unfair” of the comparisons Ingram fielded to Kevin Durant, a seven-time NBA All-Star that also entered the league undersized.
“Their similarities are striking in terms of size and body build and body type,” Kupchak said. “Beyond that, Brandon has a long long way to go and has a lot of work in front of him.”
Yet, the Lakers hardly thought twice about selecting Ingram. Kupchak would not go enough to proclaim Ingram as his top choice had the Lakers’ No. 1 pick. After all, the Lakers’ sentiment could have changed had LSU forward Ben Simmons worked out for them. But on a night Kupchak easily could have traded his pick away, he chose otherwise.
“We’re ecstatic to have him,” Kupchak said. “Going into it based on what we felt, we felt we’d be very lucky to get Brandon into this city and into this organization.”