New Orleans Pelicans: How Brandon Ingram can improve defensively

Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors shoots the ball as Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
Pascal Siakam #43 of the Toronto Raptors shoots the ball as Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans defends (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans need more from Brandon Ingram on the defensive end.

Even though his offensive play has mostly been stellar, Ingram has yet to show the type of defensive improvement the Pels were hoping for under Stan Van Gundy.

A big part of this is not his fault. The New Orleans Pelicans lack defense in a lot of areas and do not have the type of elite defenders that can cover up some of the weaknesses Ingram has in that area.

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Not every player is built to be a two-way star and Ingram needs more help from his teammates.

He also needs a viable backup at his position, as he is asked to do an awful lot on the offensive end for the Pelicans and simply may not have the necessary juice to expend energy on the defensive end.

But there are things Ingram can do to improve and I believe that he will, as every report raves about Ingram’s basketball IQ and desire to be great.

Here is how he can get there on defense

New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram needs to be a top student

Defense comes down to a handful of things.

You have to have athleticism, desire, energy and it helps if you are smart. Ingram definitely has the smarts and is known as a guy who spends a lot of time watching film.

He needs to keep this up, as defense isn’t just about quickness and hustle, it is also about positioning and being in the right spot at the right time.

Ingram seems to know this and has said as much:

"“I think it’s just knowing that every time I go in there, I’ve probably watched the film two or three times before he tells me,” Ingram said. “But just being self-aware of a lot of things so I can speak up a little bit and build a better relationship with [Van Gundy] and build a better relationship with [Williamson], on and off the basketball court.”"

Ingram isn’t the quickest or the most explosive athlete, so he needs to use his smarts to be in better position. This comes through reps and study.

New Orleans Pelicans: Brandon Ingram needs to use his length

This goes hand in hand with better positioning but Ingram rarely uses his length to disrupt passing lanes or make things difficult on offensive players.

We’ve seen it a few times this season, mostly when Ingram is put on smaller guys, but he has a 7-foot-2 wingspan which should be a weapon on defense.

Even if Ingram lacks foot speed, he can still disrupt passing lanes using his length just by being in the right spot and getting his arms extended.

This isn’t rocket science but I’ve never seen a guy with arms that long disrupt fewer passes or shots than Ingram.

Brandon Ingram needs to block more shots off the ball

Look, Brandon Ingram is never going to be an elite on-the-ball defender, he just isn’t quick or strong enough, but he can be a force off the ball blocking shots.

Again, this all goes hand in hand with positioning and length but I’d also love to see Ingram flying around more off the ball, as he is often left flat-footed watching the play.

Ingram has the size to be a plus-shot blocker but hasn’t improved much in this area, as he still blocks fewer than one per game. He is never going to be Giannis Antetokounmpo on defense but Giannis should be his model, as he gets most of his blocked shots off the ball as a weak side help defender at the rim, largely because of his length.

Same with a guy like Jerami Grant, who is smaller and has less length than Ingram but is a far better shot blocker because of his positioning and instincts off the ball.

Brandon Ingram needs to show more effort and improvement on the defensive end, even if it sometimes slows down his offensive game.

The New Orleans Pelicans are one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA mostly because their two stars aren’t that good at it, which has to change if they want to make a leap as a team.

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