Brandon Ingram is mere hours away from returning to the starting lineup after a four-game suspension for his role in an altercation with James Harden, Chris Paul and the Houston Rockets. The Los Angeles Lakers will happily have him back, starting with LeBron James, who is very high on Ingram’s skillset.
James compared Ingram to some pretty elite company (via Mike Trudell of Lakers.com):
“There’s not that many guys with that length. You look at KD, Giannis, himself, those guys with those long arms (that) guard multiple positions. Handle the ball. Rebound, pass, shoot. So it’s good to have him back.”
The measurables James mentioned here are the exact reason Ingram will be inserted back into the starting lineup when the Lakers play the Minnesota Timberwolves Monday evening. LeBron is right to point out how special Ingram’s combination of physical attributes and skill is, especially for a player who is still barely old enough to drink alcohol legally.
Despite Ingram’s prodigious talent, his fit with James hasn’t come exactly smoothly. It’s why many in the fan base might consider Kyle Kuzma a more natural fit in the starting lineup. In a sport like baseball, you can just kind of throw together a lineup of the best players and roll accordingly. Basketball requires fit to be taken into account, and this is the main concern when it comes to Ingram and James.
It’s still an insanely small sample size (largely due to Ingram’s suspension), but the numbers bear this out thus far. Ingram and James have a net rating of -0.5 points per 100 possessions as a two-player combination. For comparison, over a larger sample size of minutes, James and Kuzma have a +0.3 net rating. We’ll see how those two combinations look at the end of the season, but if the Lakers really want to reach their absolute peak ceiling, it’ll have to come on the backs of their top young talent.
LeBron seems to recognize this, and that’s at least a start.