When the New Orleans Pelicans passed on a Brandon Ingram extension, no one was surprised. Ingram, though talented and with a lot of Kevin Durant-like potential, was inconsistent, or he was injured. He had yet to exhibit an alpha mentality or an ability to carry a team in the most stressful moments. He was more complimentary than he was star. It was hard to figure out his price. Did he deserve a max extension?
David Griffin took house money. What were the chances that Ingram would dominate and become a hot commodity on the restricted player market in 2020 when he had only shown glimpses of what he could be? So, Griffin took the field instead of Ingram, who, for every year of his career, has upped his scoring numbers. That calculated risk may just have cost Griffin a lot of money because he did not pay attention to the Ingram trends
In the short term, the loss of Zion Williamson has been a blessing for Ingram who confessed that the Los Angeles culture was difficult for him to navigate and negotiate. In New Orleans, he is free. That freedom, plus knowing this is a contract year, has Ingram living his best life.
Whereas before this season, the question had to do with Ingram’s contract, was he worth a max payday. Now the question is, will Brandon Ingram be an All-Star?
He’s averaging 26 points and 7 rebounds. He’s making 55% of his shots and 48% of his threes, both career best. His offensive rating is 121 and his PER is 27.0. He is making 51% of his jumpshots. In the 4th quarter, he is shooting 60%. He is making 64% of his midrange jumpers. With less than 3 minutes, he is shooting 52%.
The season isn’t a month old and so all the early trends are just that, trends. It takes another month to see if the Brandon Ingram consistency, what has failed him throughout his career, is finally sticking to him. Also, what happens when Zion comes back?
If question number 1 is: Brandon Ingram a 2020 All-Star? Then question 1a is, can we trust what we see?
Is Brandon Ingram an elite talent or is he just a very good player on a bad team. The fact is the Pelicans haven’t been able to capitalize on Ingram’s excellence. Ingram is balling but the Pels are still losing, mostly because they have the worst scoring defense. So, what does that say about Ingram’s heady numbers? Do they really matter when the losses pile up?
Though David Griffin couldn’t have anticipated Ingram doing this, what gives him comfort is knowing that when Zion returns Ingram will go back to being number 2. Or, will he?
It’s hard to unring the bell. Now Ingram knows exactly what he can do. He knows guarding him is complicated and most teams don’t have a defender to out-quick or out-think him. He knows Zion is going to get all the attention leaving him open for shots. He knows this is a new phase in his career, that for the most part the apprenticeship is over. He knows that he is 22 years old and finally ready to meet his career. He knows that the Lakers were right when they drafted Brandon Ingram with the number two pick in the 2016 draft.
The Ingram development has not been for the impatient nor faint of heart. There were a lot of stops and starts and injuries and bruises. Equally, he brought joy and confusion to fans who just wanted him to do exactly what Brandon Ingram is doing now.
Playing like an All-Star. And a max player.