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Brandon Ingram, Kyle Kuzma show why one-and-done isn’t best for all

Los Angeles Lakers forwards Brandon Ingram and Kyle Kuzma’s play, show the downside of one-and-done.

The Lakers are in the midst of one of their most hyped offseasons. Rightfully so considering this summer they drafted their third-consecutive No.2 overall pick in Lonzo Ball who’s been deemed the new face of the franchise, and so far nothing he’s shown proves otherwise.

Then there’s Brandon Ingram, their No.2 overall pick from last year, who’s been putting in the offseason work to take a giant leap this season, and is poised to have a breakout year. Plus L.A. drafted Kyle Kuzma, the No. 27 pick of the draft, who’s proved to be a revelation for the Lakers and their fans.

In Las Vegas Summer League, L.A.’s new additions continued to show why there’s so much optimism for the team moving forward. In the one game that Ingram played in he proved to be a man amongst boys and outplayed everyone when he was on the court.

Then there was Ball, who didn’t have a great Summer League debut but ended the tournament racking up three triple-doubles and assisted his way to the Summer League MVP.

And last, but certainly not least, Kuzma had a coming out party and earned himself the Summer League Finals MVP and played as if he was going to be the steal of the 2017 draft.

Fast forward to the preseason and the Lakers still have every reason to be optimistic about the direction of the franchise in the hands of their young stars. However, the way that these three players are performing has changed a bit.

For one, after one preseason game with a modest stat line of five points, eight assists and seven rebounds, Ball followed up with an eight-point, four-assist and three-rebound performance in L.A.’s second preseason game. Since then Ball has been out with an ankle injury so it’s hard to measure his performance with such a limited sample size.

Ingram and Kuzma have played three and four games respectively for the Lakers, however, and they’re having strikingly different results.

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Kuzma has been L.A.’s best player by far this preseason and leads the team in scoring at 19.5 ppg on 62 percent shooting. His first three games he led the team in scoring by posting 21, 23, then 19 before finally being outscored by Julius Randle in the Lakers’ first preseason win against the Sacramento Kings.

Kuzma’s performance has made everyone wonder how the heck he wound up the No. 27 pick of the draft. He has a natural feel for the game, veteran footwork and a shooter’s touch that goes beyond just the three-point shot. His offensive game extends, if you will, to finishing at the rim, being effective in the mid-range and executing on floaters down the lane.

Ingram, on the other hand, is struggling to make an impact after all of the hard work he’s put in this offseason to make this his year, his team. Although it’s early, he hasn’t looked the part.

But Ingram’s struggles certainly aren’t for a lack of trying. He’s come out every game aggressive and looking to attack but that aggressiveness and eagerness haven’t translated into production. Ingram is averaging just 8 points on 26.7 percent shooting.

At times Ingram just gets lost in the midst of things and doesn’t stand out at all unless you consider his lack of production as what stands out. He’s expressed dissatisfaction with his own performance and lack of an offensive impact in preseason, but Head Coach Luke Walton and President of Basketball Operations Magic Johnson aren’t worried.

Lakers Nation’s Serena Winters reports that Walton believes Ingram is trying too hard to prove himself after all of the work he put in this offseason.

Walton:

“I think he wants to be great so bad and he’s worked so hard that he wants to show everyone how good he is. I think because of that he’s had some possessions where he definitely is trying to do too much.”

Ingram:

“I think him [Walton] and Magic been telling me just try to go out there and have fun. I know Magic told me last night he hasn’t seen me have fun yet.”

Although Ingram is struggling, whereas Kuzma is flat out balling, it’s too soon to sound the alarm and make comparisons that suggest Kuzma is better than Ingram. The sample sizes of both players are too small to make such statements and they both have a long way to go in their careers.

The truth of the matter is that Ingram is still very young and still learning the game.  

That begs the question of how much age and overall experience have to do with the level of comfortability there is in Ingram versus Kuzma.

Kuzma is 22 years old and played three years at Utah before entering the draft. Ingram is 20 and played just one year at Duke.

One could argue then, that Kuzma’s extra time in college has given him time to develop and find comfort in his ability at any level. Whereas Ingram, a one-and-done, didn’t establish an identity as a baller in one year at the collegiate level. It could be this identity and comfort issue that is affecting Ingram’s game so far in preseason.

That’s not to say that players aren’t good enough to come out of college after one year, but that in some cases players who had more time in college come into the NBA with a better sense of themselves and a better feel for the game.

Truly transcendent players like Kobe Bryant and LeBron James could forgo college altogether and still be the best to ever do it but not everyone is Kobe or LeBron.

Ingram is too talented and has worked too hard on his overall game not to improve and overcome his early struggles. In no time he should become more effective, and he only needs to let the game come to him to do so.

His eagerness to prove himself is likely the true culprit of his slow start but if we consider Division 1 NCAA basketball as a pro-amateur level of competition, then Kuzma has one more year of experience than Ingram does playing professional ball.

In the end, Ingram is still in line to have a breakout year, and the good news for the Lakers is, so is Kuzma.

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