With LeBron James expected to miss “a few games,” the Los Angeles Lakers will have to look elsewhere for the scoring, playmaking and leadership he brings to the table. While that might be easier said than done, Brandon Ingram relishes the challenge.
After shootaround on Thursday, Ingram told Dave McMenamin of ESPN that he’s ready to step up and show he can be the go-to guy for the Lakers:
“It’s an opportunity,” Ingram said after shootaround Thursday, leading up to the game against the Kings. “It’s an opportunity for me to go out there and play my game a little bit more. I think I’m going to be a little bit more ball-dominant, cutting off the basketball. I have to play even better defense and be on the help side on the defensive end. So it’s a chance for me to just up my game a little bit.”
Before James’ arrival, Ingram was expected to develop into the No. 1 option for the Lakers. With James sidelined, Ingram said that it feels like things are back to the way they were last season:
“I think it’s just like our team from last year,” Ingram said. “We just have a lot of young guys that’s grown in this league, I think. We’re a year older now so we’ve seen some things and we’ve experienced some things, so we just go out here and play our basketball games. We know what to do and we’ve seen a lot of things so we just continue to push it to the edge.”
Ingram hasn’t exactly set the league on fire this season. In fact, statistically speaking, he’s worse than he was last season. In spite of that, Ingram is the most impactful he’s ever been.
Through 23 games this season, Ingram has a net rating of +4.7, a dramatic improvement from the -2.6 net rating he posted last season. It’s also the fourth-highest net rating on the team behind Ivica Zubac (+19.1), Josh Hart (+5.4) and Tyson Chandler (+5.1).
The key to Ingram unlocking his full potential, though, will be how he balances being a facilitator and being a scorer. We know that Ingram can get to the rim at will with his massive 7-foot-3 wingspan, but he needs to show he can be a legitimate drive-and-kick threat and well.
Once he can identify what the Lakers need from him on a night-to-night basis, the ceiling is the roof for him.
Ingram’s first test will come against the young and scrappy Sacramento Kings on Thursday. If the Lakers want to steal a win on the road, it has to start with Ingram. From what it sounds like, he’s ready to go.