Brandon Ingram made massive progress as a player in his second season with the Los Angeles Lakers. The sophomore forward improved his scoring average (a team high-tying 16.1 points per game), 3-point percentage (39 percent), rebound (5.3), assist (3.9) and steals (0.8) totals, but none of that is what gives his coach Luke Walton the most confidence Ingram can be great.
“His work ethic is most important. Every top NBA player that I’ve been around, playing or coaching, has an incredible work ethic. It’s not even a work ethic, it’s who they are as people,” Walton said at his exit interview.
“They do their work every single day, and it doesn’t even feel like work. It’s not like they look tired or disappointed they have to do it, it’s just who they are. I think Brandon has done a really nice job of setting that as part of his foundation.”
The foundation Ingram set is a strong one, but ultimately, the Lakers were still three points better per 100 possessions when he was on the bench than they were when he played over the course of the season.
There is noise in those numbers, and they’re partially influenced by Ingram playing 33.5 minutes per game, meaning a decent portion of the minutes he didn’t play was garbage time.
But the best players in the league’s numbers aren’t so heavily skewed by that because they make their team so much better when they play, and Walton said his confidence Ingram can get to that level isn’t just based on how hard he works.
“You have to have the skill set to fuel your game. When I spend as much time around these guys as I do, you get to see what they’re capable of doing,” Walton explained. “I think Brandon has the skill set, the work ethic and the feel to really do great things in this league.”
At age 20, Ingram has certainly shown great potential, but like the rest of the Lakers’ young core, he’ll have to mold all that raw skill into something that translates more towards winning basketball over the summer.