If there is a positive to spring from the Lakers’ post-All-Star performances, it is Brandon Ingram’s progress. The 21-year-old has stepped up many aspects of his game since the New Year, averaging 19.1 points, 6 rebounds, and 4.1 assists throughout January, and 21.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists through February.
On January 29th, Ingram recorded a monster 36-point game against the Philadelphia 76ers. He then broke the 30-point barrier again on February 25th and March 1st, with 32-points against the Memphis Grizzlies and 31-points against the Milwaukee Bucks. Between the February 21st and 25th, Ingram dropped three straight 25+ point games, placing him in elite company historically.
Ingram is in amongst an impressive stretch, playing the best basketball of his young career so far. The versatile wing has been a slow starter through his first three seasons in the NBA, usually improving as the season progresses. This campaign has been no different. Entering his third season, he was projected to take a huge step forward in being the number 2 option alongside the recently acquired LeBron James.
However, early on Ingram struggled to adapt to a James-led team, seeing less of the ball. A four-game suspension for his involvement in the Rajon Rondo-Chris Paul fracas didn’t help matters either. When LeBron James fell to injury for 17 games, Ingram and co were given free reigns to the Lakers’ offense. Ever since, and even upon James’ return, Ingram has elevated his game.
He looks much more comfortable on the offensive end, he seems to not be rushing his shot anymore as his form appears more natural. On the season, Ingram has a 49.3% completion rate with shots 5-9 ft from the hoop. With a 57.7% rate from fadeaway jump shots. He is also utilising his length when crashing the boards. In the first three months of the season he was averaging circa 4 rebounds, this has bumped up to 5.9 throughout January/February.
When driving to the rim and attempting fadeaway jumpers, Ingram has been attracting more fouls. This has been at a consistent rate since the end of November. This being said, he is a poor career shooter from the line but has improved as of late, converting 75% in February. Developing the ability to get to the free-throw line and converting (the important part), will be huge for Ingram’s game moving forward.
On the defensive end, Ingram shows heart, he always has done since entering the professional ranks. His long, wiry wing-span makes it difficult for the opposition. Yes, he has difficulties coming off the pick-and-roll, however if he is kept to the wings (which he should be, are you listening Luke Walton?), he has more than enough potential to be a solid two-way player in this league for a long time to come.
Furthermore, Ingram is not one to point fingers, he comes across as being very humble. An extremely important trait to possess. Even having posted huge stat-lines lately, after the recent loss to the Memphis Grizzlies he downplayed his performance, emphasising the importance of winning as a team.
“I don’t think my game matters at all if it’s not a win.”
“Just put it away. Put it away. We have another game on Wednesday. That’s the good thing about NBA basketball: We always have a chance to go out and redeem ourselves the next night (if) we just come in with another sense of urgency on the offensive and defensive end and be better.”
Rounding up, there has been a fair amount of criticism surrounding Brandon Ingram this season. From his productivity in the team alongside LeBron James, to being included in pretty much every trade rumour. Even though his performances have not necessarily resulted in Laker victories, he has improved dramatically in multiple facets of the game.
Let’s remember that Ingram is still only 21-years of age. The Lakers have already moved on two young assets due to impatience, in Julius Randle and
D’Angelo Russell, of whom are balling out with their respective teams, with the latter having become an All-Star this season.
Would Randle and Russell have had such success in Los Angeles? It’s difficult to say. Will the Lakers provide an environment for Ingram to flourish long-term? We’ll have to wait and see with that one too. One thing is for sure, Brandon Ingram is a huge talent that will continue to get better and better. If the Lakers continue his development, the sky is the limit.
By Matt Evans (@mattyyyevans)