Brandon Ingram wasn’t supposed to be this good in 2019. The former #2 selection in the 2016 draft was thought to have the brightest of futures, drawing pro comparisons to the likes of Paul Pierce, Kevin Durant, and even Giannis Antetokounmpo. But, through three seasons with the Los Angeles Lakers, that luster had worn off quite a bit. Ingram averaged about 63 games a year. That earned him the “injury-prone” label.
On top of lacking durability, The Slenderman also failed to live up to his potential on the court. He never developed into the perimeter threat he was thought to be coming out of Duke while struggling with efficiency and volume. He shot around 33% on three-pointers on just 3.1 attempts Per 100 Possessions during his tenure with the Lake Show. (GHOST’s analytical timeout: You’ll notice I use Per 100 Possessions A LOT, and that’s because it’s the most accurate and fair stat tracking available today, and we’ll shorten it to Per 100 from here on out.)
Furthering his lackluster return on investment as a top pick, BI only averaged 7.1 rebounds Per 100. If you are used to Per Game stats, that doesn’t sound like a bad number. But, I’m here to tell you that 7.1 rebounds Per 100 only equals out to grabbing 7.9% of available rebounds while he was on the court for LA. For a 6’9 wing with a 7’3 wingspan, that’s atrocious! For perspective, NOLA’s very own E’Twaun Moore grabs about 7.4% of rebounds while he’s on the floor for the Pels this year. You are definitely looking for someone with more length, than some centers, to bring in more rebounds than our guy E’Twaun Moore!
The icing on the cake for Ingram was his diagnosis of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) last year. The condition threatened both his career and more importantly his life. These medical concerns on top of his unfulfilled potential on a struggling team brought his value to an all-time low around the NBA. The out of commission Ingram would be dealt to the Pelicans along with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, a multitude of draft picks and naming rights to Rob Pelinka’s firstborn child.
There was not a lot of optimism around the acquisition of Ingram in New Orleans. Most of the hype was around Lonzo and his potential fit next to Jrue Holiday in Coach Gentry’s system. Also, the 1st round picks sent over that will cover long after LeBron’s playing days are done. Right? Some local beat writers and podcast hosts were already dreaming of trade ideas to send Ingram out in search of another star, like Bradley Beal. After all, The Pels had Jrue, Lonzo, Zion, J.J. Redick and Derrick Favors in town, along with 2 other 1st round picks in Jaxson Hayes and Nickeil Alexander-Walker. Where would the long-limbed wing who thrived in ISO situations fit in on a team that doesn’t run a lot of isolation?
Throughout the Pre-Season, The Pels seemed to identify that this was Jrue and Zion’s team. Those 2 led the way as Ingram was working himself back into game shape following his DVT ordeal. However, an unfortunate injury to Zion late in the Pre-Season left the door WIDE OPEN for someone to step up and assume a leading role on the team. Ingram has taken hold of that role with full force. In the 12 games, he has played meaningful minutes. Ingram has scored 20+ points in every single one. He has become the Pelicans’ go-to scorer, and the team has relied on him late in games to get buckets when they are needed. Last season, Slenderman ranked 44th in the league in scoring. Currently, Ingram sits 9th in the NBA in scoring ahead of players such as Kawhi, LeBron, AD, Devin Booker, Donovan Mitchell, and Pascal Siakam!
It’s not just scoring that Ingram has taken a massive jump forward with. His overall game has improved. Quite honestly, Ingram has improved in nearly every single statistical category in remarkable fashion. He’s improved his volume in both FG attempts (FGA) and 3P attempts (3PA) Per 100 jumping from 19.3 FGA and 2.5 3 PA respectively to 26.4 FGA and 7.9 3 PA. Normally, such an increase in volume would occur with a decrease in efficiency. However, Ingram has managed to increase his efficiency on both measures. Most notably, BI has increased his three-point percentage from 33% to nearly 46%. That’s good for the top 15 in the NBA. Another remarkable tidbit, Ingram has already drained more threes this year than in his 52 games last year with a mark of 34 to 31.
Ingram has also improved his rebounding. Per 100, he is averaging 9.9 rebounds. That number signals a jump in rebounding percentage from 7.8% up to 11.4%, which ties him for 5th in the NBA at the Small Forward position. Other numbers seeing an increase include his Free Throw percentage, steals, blocks, and player efficiency rating.
Among all of Brandon Ingram’s improvements, the most impressive stat that sticks out is his Usage rate. Brandon has increased his Usage rate from 23.2% to 30.1%. That’s an increase of nearly 7%. What makes this so impressive is that while he has increased his time as a ball-handler and play maker, he has increased his Assist rate Per 100 from 4.1 to 5.9! That’s huge, especially considering his turnover rate hasn’t even increased by a full point.
Players aren’t supposed to improve this rapidly or this dramatically. Player progression is normally a slow steady process. Brandon Ingram has completely bucked that trend. He has morphed from a player who was one more sub-par season away from being labeled a bust, into a full-blown SUPERSTAR. If BI keeps up this pace, he would be on pace for his first All-Star bid, an All-NBA Team bid, Most Improved Player, and possibly even being in the NBA MVP conversation if the Pelicans’ can find their way into the post-season. One could argue that Ingram alone, given his production, would have been a fair trade for Anthony Davis.
Zion was supposed to be the prize this off-season. But it seems that New Orleans has struck gold and paired the 19-year-old Zion with a player whose future is equally as bright in the 22-year-old Brandon Ingram. Brandon deserves all the praise he has been getting from around the league. It’s three years later than we originally thought… But, ladies and gentlemen, BRANDON. INGRAM. HAS. ARRIVED!!