The Los Angeles Lakers have had their share of struggles this season, as they are on track to be the first LeBron James-led team to miss the postseason since The King’s rookie campaign. Underneath that facade, a duo of forwards, Kyle Kuzma and Brandon Ingram, have emerged as star sidekicks to James. Kuzma’s ascension came when LeBron missed close to twenty games earlier this season.
However, Brandon Ingram has taken his game up a few notches as of late, even with LeBron sharing the floor. The 6’9” wing is averaging 17.9 ppg on 49.2% shooting this season, including four-straight games with at least 23 points.
Ingram has finely-tuned his game in the paint, as he elevates above his defenders when shooting the ball, much like Kevin Durant. At 6’9” and just 190 pounds, his slender frame is somewhat reminiscent of KD’s build when he was younger.
He is not at all afraid to attack the basket, and he’s quite capable of doing so, as evidenced by his performance last night against the Pelicans. In his 40 minutes on the floor, he scored all but 7 (which all came from the charity stripe) of his 23 points from inside the arc. That means he didn’t need to hit a three, after only attempting one, to prove a dangerous option alongside number twenty-three.
He’s not the best shooter from beyond the arc, as a 31.8% mark leaves room for improvement. However, he’s proven that he does not need the long ball to stuff the stat sheet. Per 100 possessions, Ingram puts forth 24.6 ppg, 4.2 apg and 6.9 rpg, despite only attempting a measly 2.4 three-pointers over the same span.
As a defender, Ingram has elite skills both on the perimeter and in the paint. His 7’3” wingspan makes it quite difficult for defenders to waltz around him, and it’s also a tall task to shoot over his outstretched arms. While he averages less than a block and a steal per contest, it’s largely a product of ball-handlers avoiding him rather than a counterargument.
With his attacking mindset on the offensive end and his length on the defensive end, Ingram has finally begun to return value after being selected in the top-five a few years back.
With the Lakers attempting to make a final playoff surge in the coming months, Ingram has proven to be a key element to their success, and he’ll need to keep his performance up to recent standards if they’re going to make the cut.
If Ingram keeps playing like this, there are much larger impacts on the horizon. The New Orleans Pelicans declined to deal Anthony Davis to LA for a package that included Ingram at the deadline. However, if he continues to produce at this level, New Orleans may change their mind, as keeping Davis won’t help them. Ingram is lighting up the floor in Los Angeles, and that may be the very reason he is shipped out of town.
In the meantime, Ingram will do his best to help James and Kuzma make it to the postseason. The odds are not in their favor but if the Lakers can limit their turnovers and make more free throws, which have been a thorn in their side all year, Ingram can be a big part of returning to contention in the Western Conference.