Preview: Lakers welcome back some familiar faces as they take on the Pelicans

LOS ANGELES, CA – DECEMBER 2: Lonzo Ball #2, Brandon Ingram #14, Lebron James #23, Kyle Kuzma #0, and Josh Hart #3 look on from the bench during the game against the Phoenix Suns on December 2, 2018 at STAPLES Center in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Lakers are currently on a three-game winning streak following their four-game losing streak that included losses against the Milwaukee Bucks and the Los Angeles Clippers on Christmas Day. Although they beat their most recent opponent, 117-107, it didn’t necessarily feel that good as the Lakers squandered a huge halftime lead to the lowly Phoenix Suns. They’ll be welcoming an even worse team into town tonight, as they’ll be taking on the New Orleans Pelicans.

Although it’s just another January matchup, this game holds a little more weight than what a normal type of matchup would hold between a one-seed and a 14th-seed. That’s because the Staples Center will be welcoming back Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart for the first time since they were traded away for Anthony Davis. All three players were beloved by Lakers fans, with Ingram and Ball being two former number two overall picks that had a lot of pressure on themselves while wearing the purple-and-gold.

Obviously, these two teams are going to be interlinked for a very long time following the trade that brought Anthony Davis to the Lakers. We’ll have to see who really won the trade in five years, but both teams are currently happy with their trade results as it stands. The Lakers received their second superstar in hopes of reaching the NBA Finals again, and seem to be on their way as the current number one overall seed in the West. The Pelicans meanwhile may have received a future superstar of their own in Ingram, as well as Ball and Hart who continue to improve (don’t forget the bevy of draft picks that NBA Twitter will bring up for years to come). Speaking of Ingram…

Brandon Ingram

To say Ingram has improved this season would be an understatement. He’s currently averaging career-highs in a multitude of categories, most notably points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game, as well as his three-point percentage. The improvements have recently put him at ninth in the NBA All-Star game voting in regards to Western Conference frontcourt players.

Not only is he on his way to setting career-highs for a season in those areas I referenced above, but he’s absolutely blowing away previous marks. He’s currently shooting 40.9% from three compared to 33.0% last year, while the rest of his improvements are seen below.

  • 2018-19: 18.3 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 0.5 steals per game
  • 2019-20: 25.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.9 assists, and 1.0 steal per game

As I said previously, the Pelicans have to be happy with the trade so far from Ingram’s production alone. They really just need Josh Hart to be a solid role player to feel satisfied with him, but they also expect superstar-type production from Lonzo Ball. He hasn’t delivered anywhere close to what Ingram has done so far, but he has improved as a three-point shooter, an area where he’s been ridiculed relentlessly. On the season, he’s averaging 36.1% from three compared to his 2018-19 mark of 32.9%.

Pelicans currently streaking

The Pelicans’ last game was nearly a week ago, as the team last suited up on Sunday, December 29th. In that game they had an extremely impressive win at home against the Houston Rockets, winning 127-112. It was their fourth win in a row, as they had some other impressive wins before that against the Trail Blazers, Nuggets, and Pacers.

Speaking of Lonzo’s improved three-point shot, he happened to set his career-high for made threes in a game against the Rockets, as he made seven-of-12 scoring a season-high 27 points. Brandon Ingram continued his amazing season described above, contributing 27 himself.

Tonight, the Lakers will either have their three-game winning streak snapped or the Pelicans will have their four-game winning streak snapped. Tune in for the game, which will be airing at 7:30 p.m. PST on ESPN.

NOTE: Zion Williamson remains out although he has been doing more on-court work as of late.

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