Brandon Ingram has been a tantalizing ball of potential since he was selected with the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. After three years of stunted development with the Los Angeles Lakers, he's finally found a home in New Orleans and is starting to look like the player many thought he'd become.
Ingram was part of the massive haul the Pelicans received in exchange for Anthony Davis this summer. Along with Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, three first-round picks and a first-round pick swap, Ingram was expected to bring youth, talent and excitement to New Orleans. So far, the returns look good.
Through 11 games, Ingram is averaging 25.6 points, 7.3 rebounds and 4.1 assists in 32.5 mins per game. He's shooting 51.7 percent from the field and 45.0 percent from 3-point range. Those numbers would all be career-highs by wide margins.
Ingram entered Thursday night's 124-121 win over the Phoenix Suns ranked 10th in the NBA in scoring and his PER of 23.87 ranked 13th. Incidentally, his previous career-best PER was 13.90 during the 2017-18 season. He's nearly 10 points better this season.
Injuries dogged Ingram during his time with the Lakers. He played in 79 games as a rookie but only suited up for 59 and 52 in his final two seasons there. When he did hit the court during the 2018-19 season, it was clear he had improved. He finished his third season in the league averaging 18.3 points and 5.1 rebounds but it still felt disappointing. His hot start to this season has completely changed things.
There are several reasons why Ingram's play has taken such a jump, but first among them has to be age. The 22-year-old is in his fourth season and has finally grown up personally and professionally. Had he stayed at Duke for all four of his collegiate seasons, he'd be a rookie this year. Given the amount of development his wafer-thin body needed upon entering the league, it was always going to take time for his game to reach its potential.
Another reason for Ingram's success has to be the lack of pressure on him now that he's out of Los Angeles. The shadow of LeBron James and Magic Johnson are no longer hanging over him and doesn't have to bear the mantle of "franchise savior" anymore. The Pelicans aren't supposed to be good this year and the roster -- which includes the injured Zion Williamson -- needs time to grow together. Lowered expectations can be good for young players and give them a chance to develop. After a 1-7 start, New Orleans has won five of its last seven games.
Ingram is clearly far more confident this season. He seems to finally realize how talented he is and what someone with his obvious physical gifts can accomplish. On Thursday night against the Suns he was incredibly clutch, scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter. He finished the game with 28 points, eight rebounds, five assists, two picks and a steal. That's the kind of statline we knew he had the potential to post when he was drafted.
The incredibly talented kid the Lakers took with the second pick in 2016 has become a budding star. As the Pelicans continue to develop, the league will be forced to take notice. Brandon Ingram has arrived.