The comparisons between Brandon Ingram and Kevin Durant long predated the draft, both long, athletic players with inside-outside games even if Ingram at only 18 is less developed than Durant was at that age.
Watching the two of them on the same court this week – Durant with the U.S. Olympic team, Ingram one of four players without NBA experience on the U.S. Select team – the comparisons seems outrageous. Among NBA players, Ingram looks spindly, almost frail. Visually, there's no comparison between him and Durant at this moment, given Durant has nine years and 50 pounds on him.
With the opportunity to look at them side by side, a comparison that seemed plausible watching Ingram compete against collegians almost seems laughable. Then again, who better to assess the similarities than Durant? When he looks at Ingram, the Kinston native who starred at Duke last season, he sees a lot of himself.
“I watched him almost every game this season,” Durant said Tuesday. “I'm a huge fan. He's the first person I can say that I can look at him and feel like I'm looking in the mirror. I'm rooting for him.”
That’s setting a high bar. Durant, who was far more phyiscally developed after his lone year at Texas, just jumped from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors in one of the biggest free-agent moves in NBA history and is a future Hall of Famer. Ingram has a long, long way to go to get into Durant’s league, and not just physically.
It's an interesting dynamic. On the one hand, chasing Klay Thompson around the court Tuesday, Ingram was almost knocked to the floor by a DeMarcus Cousins screen, ricocheting off Cousins several feet toward the sideline. On the other, he has all the tools to play like Durant if his body can catch up to his game. More, even, than Durant at that age.
“He's a little bit more fluid than I was skill-wise,” Durant said. “He's a little more advanced. I was just running, jumping, shooting 3s, but he can put the ball on the floor, change directions, get to the rim, shoot the pull-up 3. That stuff came later for me. He's a little farther along than I was.”
Luke DeCock: 919-829-8947, firstname.lastname@example.org, @LukeDeCock