Coming into the draft process in 2016, everybody thought Brandon Ingram was a special player. Certainly, he was special enough to be drafted number two overall and he became a core piece of the young team that the Lakers were trying to build. However, not many could have predicted the impact that Ingram would have on the team in only his second year.
Seen as a project by most scouts, the leap that Ingram made from year one to year two was completely unprecedented. During Lonzo Ball’s absences throughout the year, Ingram was the primary ball-handler when he was on the court. He showed that even though he isn’t the point guard of the Lakers future, he has a future with his play-making and that facet of his game will be a great asset to the Lakers offensive plans.
Not only was Ingram able to take charge of the offense with his ball-handling, he also made huge strides in his ability to finish at the basket. He’s built like a stick, but he was extremely crafty in the paint and was able to finish over multiple defenders despite his thin stature. If Ingram is able to add muscle in the offseason, the Lakers could see the foundations of an offensive monster on the team.
The biggest change between Ingram’s first two years has to be his effectiveness on defense. The entire team was much better defensively this season than they had been in years past, but Ingram was an integral part of the success that they had. Using his massive wingspan and quick reactions, Ingram was able to guard one through four with relative ease, and if he’s able to add weight in the offseason, he has the potential to guard all five positions. Ingram’s switchability on the defensive end is extremely important as the league makes the switch to positionless basketball. He also has an extremely high basketball IQ and was able to read passes and deflect them away from their intended targets.
Ingram’s improvements across the board had statistical significance as well as he joined Julius Randle and Kyle Kuzma in a three-way tie by leading the team in scoring, averaging 16.1 points per game while shooting 47 percent from the field and 39 percent from three. Ingram also added 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists per game, showcasing his all-around ability that has many touting his talents and considering him the most important piece to a talented Lakers core.
Despite the massive improvements made from his rookie year, Ingram’s future on the team is all but certain. While most fans would consider him an untouchable piece of the core, the front office has indicated that no one on the team is safe from trade talks. With the Lakers desperate to move Luol Deng’s massive contract to make room for multiple star players, Ingram may be an unfortunate casualty of that desperation. Ingram’s name has also been speculated on with rumors that the Lakers are interested in trading for disgruntled star Kawhi Leonard.
To win championships in this league, you have to have players that exceed their contract value. While guys like Paul George and LeBron James can certainly take a team to the next level, the games often come down to role players having great nights where they outperform what they’re getting paid. Guys like Ingram, Ball, Kuzma, and Josh Hart are key contributors for the Lakers and they will be the difference makers for the future.
All eyes will be on Woj and Shams on July 1st for free agency, and the deals made will decide the future for the Lakers. Hopefully, that future will include a possible burgeoning star in Brandon Ingram.