With the Lakers fan base ablaze with news of Lebron’s return last night against the Clippers all eyes were on the King and how he would look after a 5-week rehab period. As the rust and lack of timing showed early on for James, the Lakers shifted their offensive attack from James to Brandon Ingram.
Ingram has been steadily improving his offensive portfolio in James’ absence but last night Ingram quietly put on an ALL-AROUND effort that was overshadowed by James’ return and Lance Stephenson’s entertaining yet insane play.
As much as the fan base yearns to crush the coaching staff’s development of Ingram, some of his visible flaws have been due to him being thrust into a role he was not ready for as opposed to his lack of ability. Ingram has never been expected to “run the offense” like a traditional point guard but was thrust into that role out of necessity.
Once Lonzo Ball began to display signs of finally having a breakthrough in the confidence of his own abilities during the Chicago game, Luke was able to slot Ingram into his slashing/scoring role and *surprise surprise* Brandon began making the strides that the Lakers wanted to see out of him.
Ingram’s Offense and Hustle
As Ingram becomes a better offensive player, his post play has been routinely improving especially when he is played by smaller defenders. He still struggles with physical same size defenders but against smaller defenders he has become much more crafty at using his length and height to score.
On this play, Ingram feels an aggressive Beverley overplay his turn towards the middle of the paint and sets him up for a gorgeous spin and finish below (Ingram set up Wiggins for a similar spin and finish in the match up against Minnesota a few games earlier)
On a post play on the same side of the court, Ingram gets the pass and is waiting for Kuzma to take Lebron’s screen and cut to the middle. Bradley is face guarding Kuzma so the cut never materializes and Ingram hits a fade away mid range look.
This next play is by far my favorite of the night. There is a cross cut setup for Ingram and the purpose is to LEAD Ingram with the pass so he can attack the rim on full sprint. Ingram doesn’t get deep enough for McGee to screen a chasing Tobias so there is no separation.
Ingram resets the play, shows off some of those dribble skills, and takes Tobias right down to the rim before drawing a foul and hitting the fade away.
Also note: Beasley’s celebratory crotch grab after Ingram makes the shot
The Lakers ran a similar kind of cross cut action below. Ingram gets a dribble hand off from Rondo and the Lakers run a lazy double drag screen that Bradley expertly navigates through. Brandon immediately goes into the post and even with Tobias helping off of Lebron, he stays with the play and hits the post fade jumper.
This kind of of confidence is incredibly important because earlier in the year, Ingram would give up the ball immediately to Lebron and it shows he is trusting his own abilities
In addition to his great one on one play last night. Brandon now having the freedom to roam on offense with Lebron and Rondo attracting the brunt of the defensive attention allowed him to move without attracting too much attention.
On the play below Rondo probes the pick and roll action with Zubac and opts to reset the play by dribbling under the rim and out. Normally this sets up hammer action and Rondo would throw the pass to Pope for a corner three but Beverley smartly takes away that passing lane. Ingram recognizes Bradley isn’t looking at him and cuts creating the passing lane for Rondo and scores.
Later in the game Ingram does the same exact thing again. Rondo drives towards the rim looking for the hammer action style pass in the corner to Hart but Tobias takes away the passing lane. Normally Rondo would be screwed here but because Ingram creates a passing lane by cutting behind Beverley he is able to get a dunk.
While the Lakers traverse through trade speculation as the deadline approaches, Brandon Ingram is playing completely unfazed by the chatter.
Not only is he growing in confidence of his offensive abilities, he is becoming more comfortable playing alongside Lebron.
Even if for a short while longer, it is becoming abundantly clear that Brandon Ingram is developing into the franchise cornerstone the Lakers expected.