LeBron James has already said he doesn’t see the Los Angeles Lakers as heading into a rebuilding year, even with young players like Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Kyle Kuzma set to be his primary supporting cast.
It seems that James’ faith in how competitive this team can be might come from him really liking that aforementioned young core, so much so that he was fine with the front office not trading any of them for Kawhi Leonard.
Had the Lakers acquired Leonard, it would have been to allow him to be James’ super wing sidekick, the Scottie Pippen to James’ Michael Jordan, but Chris Broussard of Fox Sports said on “First Things First” that James’ camp has another player in mind for that type of role (h/t Lakers Reddit user TempMedicine):
”Talking to some people close to LeBron, they think Brandon Ingram can play like a Scottie Pippen role. Now that might seem crazy to some people that see him as a forward, but a lot of times the Lakers have felt like he could play point guard, and he did in the last few months of the season.”
Putting aside the caveat that “people close to LeBron” could mean a lot of things, it’s true that the Lakers have used Ingram as a point forward in the past. The results of that experiment have been mixed, with Ingram’s assists going up, but Ingram still only ranked in the 28th percentile in the league when it came to the efficiency of the offense he created in the pick and roll (including pass-outs), per Synergy.
Still, Ingram has also shown a ton of improvement in his finishing at the rim as a ballhandler and flashes of competency at point guard as well, something our own Pete Zayas/Laker Film Room noted over at Forum Blue and Gold:
Brandon Ingram took the reins as the starting point guard for the Los Angeles Lakers on February 2nd, as they were visiting the Brooklyn Nets. Tyler Ennis had just completed a particularly ineffectual stint in that role, prompting Luke Walton to insert Josh Hart into the lineup instead. Not only was Walton looking to improve upon Ennis’ production, he was also looking to catalyze Ingram, who had been drifting through the previous few games while recovering from an ankle sprain.
The results were some of the best offensive basketball of Ingram’s career, as he posted 19.6 points, 5.6 assists, 3.7 rebounds, and just 2.4 turnovers on 62.2 TS% in 34.3 minutes per game, leading the Lakers to a 4-3 record.
Ingram is also just 20 years old, and far from a finished product. He’s shown enough flashes of skill on both ends of the floor while hounding players on defense and showing point forward skills on offense that seeing him as a potential Pippen for James isn’t totally outlandish.
It’s also far from a guarantee, but Ingram seems to be a hard worker with a solid head on his shoulders, qualities James probably sees as indicators that if properly sculpted, Ingram’s raw ball of clay could turn into the exact Pippen archetype James will need him to be if the Lakers are actually going to surprise people next season and going forward.
You can follow Harrison on Twitter at @hmfaigen.