Entering the 2018-2019 NBA season, many expected Brandon Ingram to have a breakout campaign playing alongside LeBron James. After all, Ingram was entering his third season in the league and is something of a Swiss Army knife on the floor, capable of adapting to a variety of roles and situations.
However, adjusting to playing alongside James isn’t easy, and it didn’t help that Ingram was suspended four games thanks to an altercation with Chris Paul in the second game of the season.
Ingram has developed a reputation as a slow starter, and this season was no different. It wasn’t until the calendar turned to 2019 when he really started the breakout that fans had been clamoring for, but he was incredibly impressive once he got going.
As Ingram hit his stride and James returned from injury, the two became comfortable playing off each other. There were even moments when James took a back seat to Ingram, allowing him to take his defender one-on-one while James spaced the floor. It’s not something you see often from James, and it was an indicator of just how far Ingram had come.
During the month of February, Ingram averaged 21.3 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. Moreover, he looked comfortable for perhaps the first time in his career. He got to his spots with ease and used his length to finish over and around defenders. He became nearly automatic in the mid-range, converting difficult fall-away shots with the fluidity that suggested Ingram was truly mastering his craft.
And then, tragedy struck. Two games into March, Ingram was suddenly sidelined with a shoulder issue, which was later revealed to be Deep Vein Thrombosis. Basketball was immediately a distant second as Ingram had to deal with an issue that could have potentially been life-threatening.
Fortunately, he underwent successful surgery and the prognosis is good. Ingram should be able to continue his career without the threat of recurrence. Should the clots return, Ingram could be forced to retire, but for now, it appears that won’t be the case.
Like most of the team’s key pieces this season, Ingram had just started to flash his true potential when an injury abruptly ended things.
Highlight Of The 2018-19 Lakers Season
Assuming Ingram isn’t used in a trade for a second All-Star player, the 2019-2020 season figures to be an immensely important one for his career. On the final year of his rookie contract, the Lakers can offer him an extension before the end of October, but given the DVT that he dealt with, they may decide to wait until he plays a full season before committing long-term.
Of course, if Ingram can sustain the level of play that he did in the weeks prior to his DVT, he’s going to get a massive pay increase on his next deal. He was performing at an All-Star level, so if the Lakers have faith in him to return to full health, perhaps they seize upon the opportunity now to lock him up before the price goes up in 2020 NBA free agency.
The Lakers roster is certain to undergo major changes before the 2019-2020 season begins. The team will set their sights on another All-Star player to join James. However, at just 21 years old, Ingram has a ton of upside and shouldn’t be overlooked as the team chases big names on the free agent market.