Brandon Ingram is in his contract year, and playing like it. He is un-apologetically making Lakers fans miss him. Having Anthony Davis makes this nostalgia an afterthought, but he is living up to the expectations many, including Magic Johnson, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, and myself had for him. With his lanky frame and scoring ability, he drew comparisons to Kevin Durant early on. Durant is 6′ 10″, 240lbs with a 7′ 5″ wingspan, Ingram is 6′ 10″, 190lb with a 7′ 3″ wingspan. Both went second in their respective drafts. Durant himself had high words for the then-Lakers rookie after they scrimmaged at a USA Basketball training camp.
First person I can say, that I can look at him [and] feel like I’m looking in the mirror-Kevin Durant
Not only does Ingram posses similar dimensions to Durant, but he plays the game in a similar manner. He can score like a shooting guard, but has the size to line up at power forward. Durant does not line up at the two, but Ingram has been with his lighter frame. He’s not as explosive as the two-time Finals MVP but he knows how to create his own shot and knock it down. He thrives in top-of-the-key/ wing isolation, he can expose any match-up. Perhaps his move to the New Orleans was for the best, in order for him to display his arsenal and secure his next contract. After slow start to last season, he averaged 20.5 after New-Year, the one game he was held to single digits, he managed 11 assists. Things took off in the last 17 games, where he averaged 22.5 points on 56FG%. His then career high came in a loss to the Seventy-Sixers. He showed up the only player drafted before him, Ben Simmons, and had the most disrespectful dunk of his career. Ingram scored 36 points on 80% shooting without a single 3 attempted. This was not enough to carry his depleted team to a win without LeBron James, Lonzo Ball, and Kyle Kuzma. He was the feature scorer and was not looking for spot up shots. He was cutting and creating his own. Kyle Kuzma, who is a good catch and shooter, is perhaps more suited to play alongside a player that controls the game like James does. Ingram did continue to do numbers when James returned to the lineup, but his run was cut short by a deep vein thrombosis in his right shoulder.
The fourth year forward has picked up where he left off. He’s averaging career highs in every category — 26 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists on a 55 field goals percentage. He is also shooting an absurd 48.6% from three while attempting five a game. Before he went 17/24 with 40 points in Brooklyn, his 48 percent jump shot accuracy was third best in the league. He is using his length and ability to score away from the hoop to dismantle any opponent. No one has been able to keep up with him, so far, he’s leading his new team in scoring and second in rebounds. The rebounds indicate he’s getting it done on both sides of the ball.
…told me to keep going. He likes what he sees. That’s one of, not of my…, that is my favorite player in the league.Brandon Ingram on his talk with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn
His physical gifts make him a problem on the defensive end. His reach and footwork makes him a nightmare match up for any opposing wing. Sure, he can be lazy (he’s still 22), but when he puts one-hundred percent effort into guarding his man, he’s extremely hard to operate on. His potential on defense compares to Lonzo Ball’s. Ball was famously the backbone of the 2019 Lakers defense, they struggled when he was injured. Ingram also played a big part in his team getting stops. He can pester any opponent with his length, but with his ability to line up at shooting guard, his versatility is unmatched. His defensive points saved per 100 possessions is little on the negative side, so far, but Holiday and Ball are as well. The Pelicans as a whole seem to be struggling on both ends of the floor. Ingram is making up for this with huge production on the offensive end.
He has a career high usage rate of 28.5% and is clearly taking advantage of it. He posted a new personal best– 40 points on 17-24 FG, with five assists and rebounds in a loss to the Nets. Sidelined Kevin Durant even had some words for his “doppelganger” after the game. With this behavior, there’s a handsome check waiting for him at season’s end. The Most Improved Player award could be waiting for him too.
The big question is; where will his check hail from. Where will this dynamic wing land? Will he earn his max deal from the Pelicans? Or will he take his talents elsewhere?