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Brandon Ingram thinks his fit with LeBron James is ‘pretty good,’ says he’s not a bench player

Brandon Ingram thinks he and new teammate LeBron James are fitting pretty well together, and perhaps not coincidentally believes he should remain in the starting lineup for the Lakers.

NBA: Preseason-Sacramento Kings at Los Angeles Lakers Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Brandon Ingram has been the Los Angeles Lakers’ biggest wildcard for quite some time. If he hits his potential, the team’s ceiling goes up another level. If he, say, can’t fit with LeBron James though, the Lakers will be in a tougher position.

That makes James and Ingram’s fit exceptionally important for these Lakers, and while acknowledging they haven’t played a ton together yet, Ingram said on “The Official Lakers Podcast” that he thinks his and James’ process of learning how to fit together on the floor is going well:

“It’s been pretty good. I mean, I’ve only played three games so far, but I think it’s been pretty good. We’ve only known each other for a few months, so as this continues to go and as we continue to break down film and play with each other, I think we’re going to find out each other’s spots and each other’s tendencies on the offensive and defensive end, and it’s just going to get better from there.”

So far, the numbers haven’t backed up Ingram’s conclusion. While he’s right to note that he and James have only played three games together so far, in 64 minutes while sharing the court with James, Ingram has scored 27 total points while shooting 39.3 percent from the field.

In the 18 minutes Ingram has played without James, Ingram has scored 25 points on 76.3 percent shooting.

Put more simply, Ingram has scored just two fewer points in 46 fewer minutes while not sharing the floor with James.

That less than ideal fit so far makes it seem as though the Lakers might be better off staggering James and Ingram as much as possible, which they did the other night.

However, while Ingram hasn’t said he would refuse to come off of the bench or anything, he didn’t sound like he was even considering the possibility when he first returned from suspension, and on “The Official Lakers Podcast” he didn’t sound like his first game back had changed his mind.

“I don’t think I’m a guy that comes off the bench. I think on any team I can fit in any system to go in and play against the best players on the basketball floor. And I don’t think that should be taken wrong, I think I (just) look in the mirror and know that’s the person that I am, so I have the confidence to say that.”

It’s good that Ingram is confident, and it wouldn’t make a lot of sense for the Lakers to torpedo that by sending him back to the bench. The rub is that Kyle Kuzma doesn’t feel he’s a bench player either, and so the Lakers are trying out an... unorthodox starting five of Ingram, Kuzma, James, Lonzo Ball and JaVale McGee.

One game sample sizes can be wonky, but in a team-high eight minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves the other night, that unit posted an offensive rating of 95, a defensive rating of 128.6, and were outscored at a rate that would equal 33.6 points per 100 possessions. That is not good.

Maybe that flips over a few more games, or maybe Walton tries out a new group of starters and moves Kuzma or Ingram back to the bench, but if they feel they need to start both and stick with the current lineup and it continues those trends, things could get rough.

For now, the best solution might be to send Kuzma back to the bench, but bring him in as the first sub when James comes out early to give Ingram some run when James sits, then give Kuzma a good amount of burn with James when he comes back. The Lakers can then give Ingram and James a few minutes together each half to help them find rhythm alongside one another, while still allowing Ingram to shine in a role he’s shown he’s better in so far.

We’ll see if that’s what the team ultimately does, but it’s clear they have to try and figure something out to make this pairing work if they want to maximize their potential this season.

All stats per You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.

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