When 15 interviews are conducted in a single sitting, it’s pretty easy to notice trends. During the Los Angeles Lakers’ exit interviews, the respect for Brandon Ingram was pretty hard — if not outright impossible — to avoid.
He earned it, and his season speaks for itself.
I’ll get to the quotes in a second, but context is important.
Before the All-Star Break, Ingram was averaging a pretty measly eight points per game on just 36% shooting. He was shooting around eight times per game and getting to the line for 2.6 free-throws a night.
Yes, the sample size is more nearly three times larger in that time than in after the break, but he increased those points per game to 13.2 on 48% shooting. He got to the line more often, but did make them at a lower rate.
A five-point jump is noteworthy in and of itself. A 10-point jump in shooting percentage is even more impressive. But still, as is usually the case, the story is missed on those stats alone.
So, in step those who saw him every day for most of the last year.
Metta World Peace spoke about how skilled Ingram (and Ivica Zubac for that matter) is at such a young age. He then added how important it would be to continue to work and get better.
Nick Young had his own spin on things, as you’d expect.
"They're going to be great...Especially, I believe in how far B.I. came this year" - Nick Young...B.I. is Brandon Ingram, btw.— Shahan Ahmed (@shahanLA) April 13, 2017
Young = big Ingram fan (calls him “Tiny Dog”): “This is Tiny’s town. This isn’t B.I. in November. This is B.I. in March dunking on people."— Mike Trudell (@LakersReporter) April 13, 2017
That’s certainly one way to put it. But really, that was the general message.
Others had similar things to say, too. Tyler Ennis watch Ingram in his very first game, then played alongside him after the trade deadline and noticed the improvement.
Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Timofey Mozgov and Luke Walton all sang his praises, too, at some point or another.
Ingram’s improvement throughout the year can be traced directly back to his confidence. It shows up statistically as I pointed out before, but it’s also something you have to watch really closely for.
So, the fact that teammates and coaches spoke about it (and did so for the most part without prompting) having seen him put the time and and watch him gain that confidence on an obvious, nightly basis, says something.
Before you jump in the mentions to point out how often people were asked about Ingram, I watched every single question. Yes, that happened, but more often than not teammates pointed to him without needing to be asked about him specifically.
Did Ingram’s rookie season live up the expectations before this season? Probably not. That first half of the year was brutal. There’s no getting around that.
That said, Ingram’s second half averages would’ve been good enough to put him behind only Joel Embiid for points per game scored by rookies this year. And it isn’t like Embiid can point to consistency, as he was more consistently off the court than on it.
In that 21-game sample size after the break, his shooting percentage would actually top the list of rookies if he carried it through the entire season. I don’t actually think he could’ve, but he was always going to be better than that first half suggested.
The obvious caveat for those comparisons is how weak a rookie class this was, and that’s fair. Ignoring the progress he made wouldn’t be, though.
Ingram’s potential, growth and potential for growth certainly wasn’t lost on his teammates.