Brandon Ingram no longer has to worry about the Lakers.
The Los Angeles Lakers are now a legitimate championship contender. They have two of the top five players in the league in LeBron James and Anthony Davis and they’re looking forward to ending their playoff and title droughts next season.
Things are looking good for the Purple and Gold once again. However, some fans are still saddened by the fact that the team had to let go of what was once celebrated as the team’s young core. From 2014-2017, the Lakers were a constant figure in the draft lottery, and they were able to select second in three of those years.
One of the most intriguing players the Lakers found through the draft was Brandon Ingram, the second pick in 2016. He came into the NBA as a 19-year-old with tremendous potential. He immediately drew comparisons to All-Star forward Kevin Durant even before he made the NBA, and it gave a lot of fans hope that he would be the franchise’s next superstar.
Ingram’s arrival in 2016 was perfect: Five-time champion Kobe Bryant retired the season before. BI was supposed to be next Laker superstar after the Black Mamba, but he failed to meet the expectations.
In his rookie year, Ingram averaged only 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 2.1 assists while playing at least 28 minutes in 79 games. At that point, talk of him being a bust had started.
BI bounced back in his second season, putting up 16.1 points on 47 percent shooting, including 39 percent beyond the arc. The Lakers were in need of a primary scorer, and he became the focal point of the offense.
However, Ingram was outshone by rookie forward Kyle Kuzma, who immediately became a household name in Los Angeles. Moreover, the arrival of LeBron James last season seemed to indicate that BI’s days in Lakerland were numbered. He was still able to put up 18.3 points on an impressive 49 percent shooting, but it was clear that he wasn’t the superstar the Lakers hoped he could be.
Last month, Ingram was part of the trade package the Lakers sent to the New Orleans Pelicans for Anthony Davis, which officially put an end to his underwhelming tenure in LA. However, he can turn things around on his new team.
Ingram has improved a lot since coming into the league. He showed flashes of how good he can be when given the right opportunity, and that’s something he’ll get plenty of with the Pelicans. BI is arguably the second best player on that team, and if he continues to improve, he can become a star in New Orleans.
Consistency has been one of Ingram’s major problems in his first three years in the league, which was understandable because his role with the Lakers wasn’t clear. In his rookie season, he had to play behind D’Angelo Russell. In his second season, he had to give way for Lonzo Ball and Kuzma to develop, and in his third season, he had to play alongside LeBron. BI was never given the chance to be the top guy for the Lakers.
If the Pelicans will make Ingram the focal point of their offense, there is no doubt he’ll have a breakout year next season. Sure, he’ll be playing alongside Zion Williamson, the first pick in this year’s draft, but BI is in the final year of his rookie contract, which means he will be motivated to prove himself to the rest of the NBA.
Another concern about Ingram is his health. He played 59 games in 2017 and 52 games last season. He’s also coming off surgery to remove blood clots in his arm. While the Lakers have repeatedly said that it’s not a career-ending injury, we still haven’t seen him play. Assuming he’s 100 percent ready next season, he will surprise a lot of his critics and doubters.
A lot of people have already labeled Ingram a bust, but what they fail to realize is that he’s still a 21-year-old kid who averaged 18 points while playing with LeBron. That speaks volumes about what he can do when given the right opportunity.
Do not be surprised to see Ingram average 22 to 25 points next season and become a front-runner to win the Most Improved Player of the Year Award. This is the year when the NBA will see the birth of a new superstar.