Brandon Ingram Has to Work For the Money

New location but same whispers about Brandon Ingram. Will this be the year Ingram displays consistency?  On some nights Ingram’s versatility validates where he was chosen in the lottery, just after Ben Simmons and  ahead of Jaylen Brown. And then on other nights, he is a jack of all trades master of none. He is known to disappear in games as he waits for the action to come to him rather than going out and getting his. Just when he has taken passivity to a new level, he dominates on both ends of the floor for weeks at a time before reverting back to his quiet form.

Ingram is sneaky good. He can play the point guard. His finishes at the rim improved once he put on weight and didn’t shy away from contact.  He rebounds and his defense has high effort. The length of Ingram makes him a scary defender. He is very long. Plus, he has a basketball IQ that anticipates passing lanes. Ingram’s motor is high though concealed which is the biggest misperception about him. Quiet doesn’t mean soft.

Brandon Ingram is in the draft class (2016)that is eligible for a contract extension. An extension prevents the best players in that class (Ben Simmons, Jaylen Brown,  Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray) from entering the market in the summer of 2020. But the problem Ingram poses for Pels GM David Griffin is he still is an enigma. He doesn’t deserve the extension, not because his talent isn’t prodigious, but it is still hard to pinpoint his value. Who is Brandon Ingram?

In Los Angeles, Ingram was a valuable apprentice who learned by doing while trying to bulk up his slight frame. But his last two seasons, he hasn’t been able to play 60 games. His slight size works against him as he comes up lame at the worst moments, usually when he is on a dominating stretch.

Ingram’s unselfishness is a huge plus but in a lot of instances his unselfishness is his flaw. Given his measurables, you just want Ingram to get the rock, shake everyone off, and get buckets. But that’s not really his game and I’ve come to think what everyone wants Ingram to be, a Kevin Durant lite, is what Ingram never will be. He isn’t intent on living up to our expectations but rather his own.

I can see Ingram being forgotten in New Orleans. Lonzo Ball and Zion Williamson already have chemistry. Jrue Holiday is a combo guard that gets his shot when he wants to get it. (Anthony Davis talent didn’t keep Jrue from playing his game and neither will Zion.) Does Ingram have the aggressiveness to take the ball and do magical things with it, to be noticed? Can he be option number two, a Batman so to speak to Zion?

If Ingram was consistent with his three point shot, he would have had the extension wrapped up. But he came into the league shooting 29% from three which ended all the KD comparisons. His second year, that number jumped up to 39% but he only took 2 threes a game. Last season, he took the same amount of threes but a much lower efficiency, 33%. Ingram is 6-9 but he doesn’t space the floor. He’s not much of a threat beyond the arc.

If he wants to get paid in the summer of 2020, he  has to show aggressiveness in the 4th quarter. Last season, he took 70 more shots in the 3rd quarter than he did in the 4th. He took 90 more shots in the 1st quarter than he launched in the 4th. He’s focused when the game starts but as it drags on he becomes more placid and often invisible. That has to change.

Or, not. It just might be we know who Brandon Ingram is. He picks his spots. He moves when he feels he has an advantage. He is unselfish with his game. He’s a role player who is exceptionally talented but he doesn’t have that x factor to dominate and his body betrays him with injury.

The word everyone uses with Ingram is “potential.” He is entering his fourth year. At this point, the potential should have started to pay dividends. Ingram shouldn’t still be a curiosity.

Blood clots derailed him last year and made Ingram a question mark for a trade. All cleared up now, it is Ingram on the clock. Free agency hits next summer, if the Pelicans don’t offer the extension by October 21st.

This season, the Pelicans will showcase Lonzo-Zion.  Will Brandon Ingram be noticed in the midst of  the Zion hoopla? If he wants max money, that answer has to be yes.

Brandon Ingram needs a monster year. He has to prove he is more than someone’s potential. And that he is on the cusp of stardom.