Philadelphia 76ers: J.J. Redick has high praise for Brandon Ingram

J.J. Redick‘s post-NBA career has been a ton of fun to watch.

Though he’s technically been podcasting for years, including breaking down the process of signing with the Philadelphia 76ers, Redick’s become borderline prolific over the past year or so, with his media game elevating to new heights after joining up with ESPN as an NBA analyst.

In this weird, post-playing period of his career, we’ve seen Redick go viral for his comments on LeBron James, call leaving the Sixers his biggest regret – thanks a lot, Elton Brand – and just generally enjoy being a Brooklyn-based wine dad, even if it’s clear he’s still adjusting to life off the court.

Why, you may ask, is this relevant? Well, because J.J. Redick has played with a bunch of different players over the course of his career and has some unique insights into their games that few others can offer, especially when he actually sits down to chat with them on his podcast, “The Old Man and the Three.” One of those players is Brandon Ingram, who just so happens to be a hot trade target among fans of the Philadelphia 76ers.  Let’s see what the former Duke Blue Devil had to say about his fellow alumnus when the duo were teammates back in New Orleans (watch it here) and evaluate how he would fit in the City of Brotherly Love, shall we?

Brandon Ingram checks most boxes for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Hardworking; over and over again, that’s the word J.J. Redick used to describe Brandon Ingram while the duo discussed the second-overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft’s game.

He likes to be coached, doesn’t like taking offseason workout selfies, and wants nothing more than to continue to work on his game as the 24-year-old prepares to enter his prime. He’s also, funny enough, a very comparable player, physically speaking, to arguably the best player in the NBA today, Kevin Durant; a player Ingram has been getting comped to on and off since he was competing with Ben Simmons to be drafted first overall by the Philadelphia 76ers.

If you’re a team looking to trade for a multiple-time All-Star, Ingram is one of the better chips in the NBA to negotiate a deal around, as evidenced by the deal that originally brought the collegiate Dukie to New Orleans in the first place.

Since that fateful day back in 2019, Ingram has elevated his scoring considerably over his best season with the Los Angeles Lakers, improved as a passer, and even secured an All-Star berth of his now free from the shadows of the best player of his era.

But how does the hype match Ingram’s actual statistics? Let’s take a look

When tasked with running the show as a team’s primary offensive weapon, Ingram can shine. Call it a byproduct of being dubbed the heir apparent to Kobe Bryant’s offensive scoring in the year after his retirement, but Ingram has been a high usage player since his rookie season and has really grown into the role since joining the Pelicans back in 2019.

Ingram is also a more than capable off-ball player, as he’s hit 38-plus percent of his 3 point attempts on above-average volume over the past three seasons, and has developed into a 42-plus percent shooter on catch-and-shoot opportunities. Because of his height, Ingram can pretty much shoot over anyone, much like Durant, and he’s a more than capable off-ball screener who can get himself an open look when paired up with a passing point like Lonzo Ball.

And what about defense? Isn’t Ingram like horrible at defense?

He’s definitely not Matisse Thybulle, but I wouldn’t necessarily call him horrible either.

Of the 364 players in the NBA who have played at least 500 minutes in 2021-22, Ingram ranked 314th in defensive RAPTOR according to FiveThirtyEight with a -2.0. That isn’t the worst but isn’t great either. What is notably better, however, was Ingram’s 2020-21 ESPN Real Plus-Minus rating of +.73, which ranked 28th among small forwards, and 107th overall out of 534 qualifying players.

Pro-Basketball-Reference fell somewhere in between, giving Ingram an increasingly negative Defensive Box Plus-Minus score over the past three seasons but a positive defensive winshare in each season as well.

Throw that all together with a bit of the eye test for good measure, and I think it’s safe to say that Ingram is a below-average NBA defender, especially when facing off against bigger forwards, but not quite a defensive liability who has to be hidden on that end of the court a la Redick.

So, if Ingram can quite literally do it all as an offensive player and is a serviceable defender, there’s just one question left to be asked: Can he close out games? I mean, that has very the Sixers’ biggest issue over the past few seasons, and if they’re going to trade Simmons away from a non-Damian Lillard return, they’d surely at least want a closer back in return, right?

That, unfortunately, is where things fall apart. Over the past three seasons, Ingram has been an incredibly inefficient scorer in clutch-time situations, routinely taking two-plus shots from the field when his team needs him most but making them at a clip in the low 30s and 3s at times in the teens. While one might assume this is because of the presence of players like Ball, Jrue Holiday, or even Zion Williamson, frankly, that isn’t the case. Theoretically, Ingram should be the Pelicans’ closer and routinely gets opportunities to actually close out games; he just doesn’t connect when he’s put in that position.

Now granted, maybe that can be an area of his game that he can work on. Again, Ingram loves to put in the work and has improved his game notably since entering the league, but it’s not like he hasn’t been given opportunities to score in clutch situations. If anything, Ingram has been counted on too much early on in his career and has never been able to develop the clutch gene number 8/24 displayed at the soon-to-be Crypto.com Center.

Sidebar: Just call it “The Crypt.”

By the end of J.J. Redick’s interview with Brandon Ingram, I’m not going to lie; I was a big fan too. He seems like a genuine person who really wants to be great and will put in the work to do so. He also plays a position that Doc Rivers could undoubtedly use, and could conceivably play a Paul George-ish role in the Hall-of-Fame-bound head coach’s offense. But for a Philadelphia 76ers team that really needs to hit their Ben Simmons trade out of the park, it’s hard to be confident that Ingram would immediately come in and supercharge the team like Jimmy Butler did before him. Unless there’s a corresponding move to swap out Tobias Harris for, say, a legitimate closer like Terry Rozier – seriously, look it up – the fit is more hypothetical than undeniable.