The Los Angeles Lakers have completed a full week of preseason games with a 1-3 record, complete with rough patches that were expected from a team with a completely revamped roster. But with his strong play on both ends of the court, Brandon Ingram is viewed as LakersNation.com’s Player of the Week.
Ingram, who turned 21 years old last month, is entering his third NBA season. Nicknamed “Slender Man,” he may struggle to put on weight but got stronger over the summer and has returned to the court with increased confidence.
This past week, Ingram led the team in scoring at 15.3 points on 50 percent shooting from the floor, 5.3 rebounds and steals at 1.5 per night.
Ingram also played the second-most minutes on the team at 25.7, trailing only Josh Hart who averaged 27 minutes for the week. In the first preseason game, a 124-107 blowout loss to the Denver Nuggets, Ingram was one of the team’s few bright spots.
He played 27 minutes and scored 16 points on 7-of-14 shooting from the field. He also had 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
The Lakers improved a few days later in a rematch with the Nuggets, taking a double-digit lead before watching mostly third string players let the game slip away in the fourth quarter of a 113-111 loss.
Ingram was in foul trouble, played only 19 minutes and took just five shots. Although he did grab 6 rebounds.
It was in the next game, a 128-123 victory over the Sacramento Kings, where Ingram’s talent was on full display. It was a game the Lakers were expected to win, but the Kings do have excellent young talent so it was a good test.
Ingram finished with a game-high 31 points in 35 minutes of playing time. He was 10-of-15 shooting from the field, 11-for-15 from the free throw line, to go along with 9 rebounds, 3 steals and a block.
There were two components to his game which were especially impressive. In the fourth quarter, Ingram took control for the Lakers with the game on the line. He was almost unstoppable at the end.
Ingram also showed his defensive potential in the fourth quarter. In one sequence, he guarded the player who was trying to bring the ball inbounds. He rejected the inbounds pass four consecutive times before stealing the ball and making two key free throws when he was fouled. LeBron James was cheering on the sidelines as he watched the sequence.
Ingram also showed his versatility by starting at point guard against the Kings. Lonzo Ball is still being held out of games as a precaution and Rajon Rondo was given the night off to rest. Fans may remember that the team had its biggest success last season in January and February when Ingram played the point while Ball was out with an injury.
The Lakers played poorly as a group in the fourth game, a loss to the Clippers. Ingram had an off shooting night but still scored 10 point and most important, while his shot was not falling, he did not disappear as in previous seasons, he remained aggressive and had some very good defensive plays.
There is one issue, however, which may be a problem. Ingram is still not looking to shoot from behind the arc and is yet to make a single three-pointer in the preseason. Nearly all his points have come at the rim as a result of his moving very well with and without the ball. Still, the first week of Ingram’s preseason has been a success.
If the Lakers meet or exceed expectations this season, someone has to step on and become the number two scoring option. James has been excellent but cannot do it all on his own. Based on the first week of the preseason, it looks like the role is going to fall to Ingram who is a confirmed starter and will likely to play the second most minutes on the team this season.
Ingram struggled as a rookie after he was chosen by the Lakers with the No. 2 pick in the 2016 Draft, but through it all, it was still possible to see the potential. He was vastly improved last year and might have been on the brink of stardom but for the injuries that limited him to playing only 59 games on the season.
Based on how he has played the past week, it looks like Ingram is poised to take another big leap this year.
When he was drafted, some experts proclaimed that in five years Ingram would be better than Ben Simmons who was picked just ahead of him. Ingram was much younger and less physically mature than Simmons. The latter is outstanding, but with his all-around game and increasing confidence, the Lakers hope that Ingram proves those experts right.
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