Although the Los Angeles Lakers weren’t able to land Paul George this summer, they understood the scenarios and made the best of their situation. The luck of the lottery balls led to the selection of Lonzo Ball, and Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka acquired All-Star center Brook Lopez and Las Vegas Summer League MVP Kyle Kuzma in a pre-draft trade as well.
With the front office focused more so on the 2018 free agency class, they were able to navigate through all the offers that would gut their core and team. With many already believing that Ball was untouchable, the main asset teams were driven towards was forward Brandon Ingram.
After showing many signs of improvement when getting accustomed to the NBA, the Lakers and every team in the NBA recognized the potential of the former Duke star. According to Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News, Johnson stated that most of the NBA called in to gauge the market for the All-Rookie Second Team selection:
Instead, the Lakers often heard something that made them hang up. Johnson said “everybody” inquired about second-year forward Brandon Ingram.
“Anybody that called us wanted him,” Johnson said. “We said, ‘No thank you.'”
The 19-year-old put on a dazzling performance in his only action during the 2017 Las Vegas Summer League, posting 26 points, three steals and three assists against the Los Angeles Clippers. The glimpse of the future took a turn for the worse when Ingram seemed to be injured at the end of the game. Johnson immediately shut his young star down.
Luckily for the Lakers, it just turned out to be a case of the cramps. Los Angeles has viewed the 6’9″ forward as an untouchable asset for quite some time, set in stone as a pillar of the franchise that will help resurrect the championship culture.
Ingram surely could have been the basis for many packages from other teams this offseason, but the Lakers have both the long-term and short-term picture in mind with Ingram. He averaged 13.2 points, 3.8 rebounds, 1.2 steals and 2.6 assists over the final two months of the 2016-17 season, while also demonstrating the intangibles off the court that can take his game to the next level.