Though the LSU Tigers' Ben Simmons has absorbed most of the attention in NBA draft discussion, Duke Blue Devils freshman Brandon Ingram has quietly developed into an attractive consolation prize.
Meanwhile, the rise of New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis has created quite a buzz. He's emphatically emerged as the league's No. 2 rookie and game's next international star.
By the time they've peaked, we could potentially be talking about two of the league's tougher covers, given their unique physical tools and versatility.
Just imagine every NCAA prospect and NBA player gets thrown into a pool for general managers to select from. They're looking for the best long-term prospect to build around.
Who's the better option: Porzingis or Ingram?
|Age, Physical Tools|
|Age||NBA Position||Height||Weight (lbs)||Wingspan|
Ingram oozes with offensive upside fueled by length, athleticism and face-up scoring ability. It's a combination that spells out M-I-S-M-A-T-C-H. There aren't many wings that can rival his 6'9" size and massive 7'3" wingspan. The only current ones with arms that long are Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Marvin Williams and Al-Farouq Aminu, according to DraftExpress' measurement database.
And Ingram uses every inch to get off clean looks over the defense, both around the perimeter and at the rim. He's averaging 16.9 points on 47.4 percent while showing he can score from all three levels.
|At the rim||47||.648|
Shooting range and shot-making capability represent the most attractive aspects of his game. He's been deadly spotting up around the arc, which highlights the fact he threatens a defense without needing one-on-one dribbles. And he can handle the ball and separate into mid-range fallaways, turnarounds and pull-ups—off-balance but unguardable shots he's looked comfortable converting.
Agility, body control and bounce also translate to tough layups and showtime dunks off line drives or slashes.
Scouts must ultimately decide whether he'll tie it all together, but Ingram possesses the tools and skills shared by the game's top perimeter scorers.
One of the big questions concerning his potential revolves around a skinny, 190-pound frame. How much muscle can he put on, and if it's not a lot, how will it affect his ability to execute against teams' top defensive stoppers?
We asked a similar question about Porzingis heading into his first year as a pro. And so far, we've seen a lack of strength contribute to the rookie's poor 53.2 percent field-goal clip within five feet, per NBA.com. However, it hasn't stopped him from averaging 13.8 points or hitting the 20-point mark nine times before the All-Star break.
He's quickly become a problem for opposing defenses. The Knicks have been able to use him in different situations, from pick-and-pops to isolation and post-ups. At this stage in his development, efficiency isn't as important as demonstrating capability, which suggests consistent execution can come with time.
And Porzingis looks more than capable with every shot in the book from any spot on the floor.
He has deep, effortless range on his jumper. Assuming he can maintain his 1.1 threes per game, he'd join Dirk Nowitzki as the only 7-footers to average a triple and 1.5 blocks, according to Sports-Reference.com.
He's been more effective in the mid-range, though, where he's made 83 of 198 (41.9 percent) of his attempts. We've seen Porzingis square up to rise and fire one-on-one, catch and shoot, stop-and-pop or fall away over his shoulder.
And given the height of his release point, he gets these shots off with relative ease. Most defenders, whether they're 4s or 5s, just aren't built to cover 7'3" shooters who can put the ball on the floor, fly down the court or sky above the rim.
To think he can be this effective at 20 years old makes you wonder what he'll look like at 25 after four full seasons of full-time reps.
Ingram's scoring potential is equally attractive, given his nearly unmatchable measurements, high skill level and youth. He doesn't turn 19 years old until September, which also diminishes some of the concern tied to his skinny arms and legs.
It's not crazy to think both players can average between 18-22 points a game in their primes.
Ingram's 1.8 assists per game won't ping the radar, but they do reflect some impressive passing ability off the dribble. He's comfortable bringing the ball up the floor and working in ball-screen situations, where he can pass on the move over the top of the defense.
A quick first step also allows him to beat his man and suck in a help defender. And he's flashed the vision to capitalize with drive-and-kick-outs to open shooters.
He'll occasionally even be asked to initiate Duke's offense at the point. It wouldn't be shocking to see his future coach eventually try him out at 2-guard, given his pick-and-roll skills and shooting stroke.
"He's one of those guys who's a hybrid," coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN's C.L. Brown. "You don't want a position, you want to give him the ability to play multiple places on the court."
Porzingis' playmaking shows up on standstill passes to cutters from the post or perimeter. But despite offering the versatility to play stretch 4, he doesn't move low enough to the ground to blow by and create after two or three dribbles. He'll ultimately have a better chance at triple-doubling with blocks than assists.
Ingram plays the 4 at Duke, but he doesn't rebound like a power forward. His 8.1 boards per 40 minutes and 11.2 percent rebounding percentage aren't anything to get excited about.
It's not a major cause for concern and shouldn't factor heavily into his overall evaluation. But he doesn't do himself any favors under the boards.
On the other hand, Porzingis already has himself 18 double-doubles. He gets to loose balls at their highest points above traffic, thanks to towering height, reach and hops. It helps to have giant, sticky hands as well.
Porzingis is exceptionally coordinated, which we've seen throughout the year on 12 putback dunks. He's averaging 7.7 rebounds in 28.2 minutes a game (9.9 per 36 minutes), a number that should only increase over the years.
Just as it does on offense, Ingram's length shows up on defense, where he's averaging 1.3 steals and 1.6 blocks. His athleticism and wingspan naturally translate to defensive playmaking.
Unfortunately, defensive production doesn't necessarily equate to sharp defense. In terms of helping, reacting or anticipating picks, his feel and awareness are suspect. He also gets moved around and screened fairly easily. His overall defensive energy and body language can fluctuate as well. Ingram can be caught flat-footed or ball-watching throughout a game.
Porzingis ranks No. 7 in the NBA in shot-blocking (1.92 per game). And it's not just the size, length and mobility—he's flashed terrific instincts in terms of timing and positioning.
We've seen everything from chase-down blocks, weak-side rejections and straight-on denials.
Opponents have shot just 46.5 percent against Porzingis at the rim. For perspective, Marc Gasol allows 45.6 percent on the same amount of attempts (7.1 per game). He's had trouble containing quicker or smaller 4s like Draymond Green, but unlike Ingram, Porzingis offers difference-making defensive potential as a roaming rim protector and overall disruptor.
Ingram versus Porzingis
Between his obvious talent, strong production and the fact bottom-of-the-barrel teams (Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Phoenix Suns) all need wings, Ingram looks like a top-three lock this June.
Assuming he's one-and-done, he'll enter the league a year younger than Porzingis did. But he won't make the same type of impact and doesn't offer convincing defensive upside.
Porzingis has the chance to evolve into a special two-way weapon the game hasn't quite seen before. And based on what we've witnessed through three months against NBA competition, it's easy to buy in.
An average rebounder and questionable defender, Ingram will likely have to become an elite NBA scorer to surpass Porzingis in value.
Among prospects and players under 22 years old, I'd rank Porzingis No. 4 behind Karl-Anthony Towns, Anthony Davis and Ben Simmons. Ingram would follow Andrew Wiggins and Jahlil Okafor at No. 7.
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