Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram made massive progress as a player in his second NBA season, improving his statistical averages across the board while tying for the team lead in scoring (16.1 points per game).
Unfortunately for Ingram and the Lakers, his sophomore season was cut short by a concussion. The head issue, coupled with a prior groin injury that led to a lengthy absence, caused Ingram to led to Ingram missing 19 of the Lakers’ final 21 games.
While Ingram’s health is more important than playing in any meaningless leftover games, it was still a blow for the team that he was so limited this season, in large part because of the huge progress he was making. Progress that in head coach Luke Walton’s opinion had Ingram on track to become an NBA All-Star, Walton recently explained to Mike Trudell in the Lakers voices series:
“Brandon was making, before he got hurt, in my opinion, he was taking those first steps towards becoming an All-Star. When we were on that road trip, he was putting us on his back. When the offense was stalling out, he was taking control of situations, coming off of pin-downs, or coming off of high ball screens and being the aggressor. Shoving his man off, pulling up and hitting that midrange, and then getting out on the break and creating those opportunities for other people.
“I really think he was starting to feel what that was like and do that consistently. That’s what the All-Stars do at our level. Everyone has a ton of talent in this league, but the All-Stars and the best players are the ones that can find a way to do it every single night. And that’s really hard, because of the amount of games we play and the toll it takes on you, but he was starting I think to feel that and play like that consistently. It was good to see that he was going to be one of those players that takes those steps.”
In the month before his groin injury, Ingram averaged 18.6 points on 54.4 percent shooting. He was knocking down an unsustainable 52.2 percent of his 3-pointers and contributing 5.2 rebounds and 5.6 assists as well. The Lakers were also nearly eight points better per 100 possessions with Ingram on the floor during that time period.
Those are borderline All-Star numbers, and while they might not be Ingram’s career averages, they at least demonstrate that he can play at that level. Whether he ultimately gets there will depend on how big of strides the 20-year-old can keep making as he develops in a crowded Western Conference field.
But there is at least a chance he can live up to Walton’s high praise at some point, which is a good sign for the Lakers’ future.