Following a season to forget, Brandon Ingram and the Los Angeles Lakers will not be short on potential this upcoming season. It is a great time to be a member of Laker Nation. With Laker legend Earvin “Magic” Johnson at the helm, the Lakers are certainly trending upward. In the NBA, a successful team trickles from the top down. It starts with ownership and the front office, then to the coaching staff, and finally materializes with the culmination of talent assembled by those front office executives. The Lakers are doing things by the book this time around.
It all starts with Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson is on the Mount Rushmore of many basketball experts. A hall of famer who played with such flair at point guard in an unusual 6’9” frame, Magic is a pioneer of the game. With an infectious personality and smile that could illuminate the darkest of rooms, Johnson alone could be an enticing enough factor to bring superstars to the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Johnson inherited the second overall picks from the 2015 and 2016 NBA Drafts. However, it was the former (D’Angelo Russell) that he decided to part ways with earlier this summer, while the latter (Brandon Ingram) remains and seems to be his cornerstone. Ingram, a tantalizing 19-year old prospect from Duke University stands at 6’9” and possesses a 7’0” wingspan, oozes with potential. Given just the physical tools, any team would be foolish to not want to roll the dice on the young forward. Once you realize that he is also an above average shooter with a silky smooth jumper and handle to match, it is clear to see that Ingram has potential to be great.
Ingram’s impending improvement could be right around the corner. Most experts projected Ingram as a possible All-Star when the young forward was coming out of Duke. While these are high expectations, patience with Ingram will mean a great deal. Ingram is a raw prospect due to his lack of a muscular build. Given the fact that Ingram was a mere 19-years old entering the league, he gets a pass in these shortcomings as physical tools are something that NBA trainers can mold out of most players.
The numbers for Brandon Ingram’s rookie season are also something to pay close attention to. As most rookies do, Ingram struggled to adjust to the physicality and pace of NBA competition. Ingram finished his rookie season averaging 9.4 points per game to go along with 4 rebounds per game. While this is a culmination of the full 82 game season, diving in a little deeper shows the true outlook of the young wing. Consistently improving, Ingram upped his scoring average each month throughout the season, aside from two one point differences from November – December and March – April. Looking at Ingram’s production post All-Star break is also something of note. While it is a small sample size of 21 games, Ingram averaged 13.2 points on 47.5% shooting from the field as compared to 8 points on 36.3% shooting from the field for the first 58 games Ingram suited up for.
Ingram’s potential was on display for his lone Summer League game with the Los Angeles Lakers this July. While Brandon Ingram only suited up for one game, he did score an impressive 26 points on 9-of-17 shooting, good for 52.9%. The young prospect put his full arsenal of scoring on display. He scored via mid-range, post-up, attacking the rim, and even three-point land. Ingram did it all on offense while staying efficient. He also put his frame on display as he managed to nab 3 steals and block two shots throughout the game. Another factor of note when watching the game was an obvious uptick in aggression. Ingram actively sought out his scoring opportunities, showing potential to be a number-one option on offense. This aggression seems to stem back to the Lakers’ regular season. Comparing Pre All-Star to Post All-Star, Ingram’s shot totals increased incrementally over the season. For the first half of the season, he averaged 7.7 field goal attempts per game. For the final 21 games, Ingram put up 11.4 attempts per game. This surge was a clear indicator of Ingram’s improved comfortability with the NBA game.
Another factor that will be sure to help Ingram and the Lakers’ growth is the arrival of a floor general, insert Lonzo Ball. The Las Vegas MVP put his talents on full display when he laced ‘em up for the Lakers’ Summer League team. With averages of 16.3 points, 9.3 assists, 7.7 rebounds, as well as 2.5 steals per game, Magic Johnson seems to have found the leader he was looking to build this team around for years to come. What makes Lonzo so special is his ability to make others better. Ball completely revitalized the culture of UCLA basketball and saved head coach, Steve Alford, from losing his job. This is not because of how well Lonzo Ball, UCLA’s star point guard, was, but how well his other counterparts performed. Lonzo got everybody involved with his one-of-a-kind court vision and IQ each and every night. Give him some NBA talent, a team that includes the likes of Brandon Ingram, and the team will improve.
The point guard that Brandon Ingram played alongside for his rookie season was D’Angelo Russell. Russell, a tremendous talent, is not the type of player that makes his teammates better. As evidenced by his mere 4.8 assist average, Russell’s main priority was scoring himself. With a pass-first creative floor general in Ball, Brandon Ingram’s play should be on the rise. Russell was traded just before the NBA Draft, signaling the Lakers’ eventual selection of Ball, was a step in the right direction. The Lakers are a young team with a lot to learn, but they will surely be competitive if they keep trending upwards as they are now.
While most young players hit a wall in their sophomore seasons, look for Los Angeles Lakers’ forward, Brandon Ingram to break through.
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