In each of his four NBA seasons, Brandon Ingram has gotten better. He averaged just 9.4 points as a 19-year-old rookie with the Lakers which was then bumped up to 16.3 points and 18.1 points in two more years in L.A. before he was traded to New Orleans as part of the Anthony Davis package.
Now? He ranks 12th in the NBA at 25.8 points, and he is doing so with efficiency, shooting 48.0 percent from the field and 40.6 percent from the 3-point line, making 86.0 percent of his free throws.
Ingram missed the Pelicans’ game on Monday against the Pistons but returned in a big way against Utah on Thursday, scoring 49 points on just 25 shots (he made 15 and was 16-for-20 from the free-throw line). He made a game-tying jumper with 0.2 seconds to play to send the game into overtime, which the Pelicans went on to win.
That has teammate Lonzo Ball thinking big for Ingram as the league moves within a month of its annual All-Star game.
Ingram does have a good case. There can be as many as eight frontcourt players chosen from the Western Conference for the All-Star game, and the shoo-ins appear to be LeBron James, Davis, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard and Nikola Jokic.
Rudy Gobert of the Jazz likely will be on the roster. Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns is also a candidate, but he has missed 15 games with a knee injury. Clint Capela and Steven Adams are possibilities, too, but neither has the splashy numbers that Ingram has posted.
It will help Ingram’s cause that the Pelicans have begun to play well after a miserable beginning. Ingram won’t be voted in as a starter, of course, so he would have to be selected by coaches, who usually factor team record into their decisions.
The Pelicans have won 10 of their last 14 games, with Ingram (27.3 points) leading the way.
Alvin Gentry Has High Praise for Brandon Ingram
After the thrilling win, Pels coach Alvin Gentry said he could see a game like this coming for Ingram.
“To be honest with you it doesn’t surprise me that much,” Gentry told reporters. “I just think that the way he works and the way he’s gotten better and worked on his craft, sooner or later he was going to have a game like this.”
Gentry said Ingram left no doubt that, with the Pelicans down by two points and the game on the line, he would get the shot, which he made from the right wing.
“He wants the ball in those situations,” Gentry said. “He said ‘Give me the ball and I’ll go get us a basket.’ We just tried to find a way to free him up so that we could get him the ball in a situation where they had a little space. The lane was crowded because Gobert just parked in the lane, and he was still able to get a shot off.”
The performance of Ingram and the way the team has played lately has the Pelicans back in the playoff chase in the short-term, but it’s also creating long-term buzz as New Orleans prepares to welcome back forward Zion Williamson, who has been out for the first half of the season with a knee injury.
Williamson’s return will likely move Ingram back to the small-forward spot—he’s been mostly at power forward this year—and working out the dynamics between the two will be a challenge for Gentry. But no coach has ever complained about having too many top-tier young players.