Despite a solid, if inconsistent run where he has partially made up for the contributions of the injured LeBron James, Brandon Ingram has been seen as someone who has yet to live up to his billing as a former No. 2 overall draft pick. This, according to Bleacher Report, could make him the next up-and-coming Laker to get “sacrificed for the bigger picture” as he follows in the footsteps of former Lakers standouts Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell.
For the entire 2018-19 NBA season, Ingram has averaged 16.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 2.5 assists in his third year in the league, but has seen his scoring and assists stats decline, with his shooting percentages likewise down to 46.4 percent from the field and 29.1 percent from the three-point line. While he scored 21 points and dished out nine assists as the Lakers beat the Sacramento Kings on Sunday, Bleacher Report noted that Ingram had some late-game struggles during most of the Lakers’ four losses with James on the sidelines.
“Ingram’s lack of consistency and outside shot are problematic for a team with serious championship aspirations after it lured James over the summer,” Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus wrote.
“It’s easy to forget that in his third season, Ingram is just 21-years-old, merely 324 days older than Deandre Ayton, the Phoenix Suns’ top pick in the 2018 NBA draft.”
Beyond the question of whether Brandon Ingram can or cannot mesh with LeBron James on the court, Pincus added that the main reason why Ingram might eventually be traded boils down to financial concerns and the Lakers’ quest to complement James with a second superstar player. To that end, Pincus believes that the Lakers will likely do as they have often done and trade away a young player they once drafted in order to free up salary cap space.
Citing examples of how the Los Angeles Lakers have shipped youngsters to other teams to enjoy greater cap flexibility, Pincus mentioned Brooklyn Nets point guard D’Angelo Russell, New Orleans Pelicans forward Julius Randle, and forward Larry Nance Jr. and guard Jordan Clarkson of the Cleveland Cavaliers, all of whom have seen their numbers improve after leaving Los Angeles, albeit while playing for losing teams.
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Although the Lakers currently have enough cap space to sign the likes of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, or Klay Thompson as free agents in the summer of 2019, Pincus predicted that the team might have to switch tactics and trade for a superstar, such as the Pelicans’ Anthony Davis, or even the Washington Wizards’ starting shooting guard, Bradley Beal.
“This is where Ingram’s future gets murky. Given Davis is under contract through the 2019-20 season, the Lakers may need to hold off on any long-term investments this summer if the Pelicans aren’t ready to trade away their franchise player. Because in that case, Los Angeles would need the leverage of cap room in 2020 to sign Davis outright.”
Even with New Orleans head coach Alvin Gentry’s firm insistence that the Pelicans have no plans to trade Davis, the 25-year-old forward/center has still been brought up in a plethora of trade rumors, including those suggesting he might eventually be headed to the Lakers, per SB Nation. Much like Ingram, Lakers youngsters Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, and Josh Hart have also been cited as potential trade pieces if Los Angeles does make a deal for Davis.
With the Lakers now eighth in the Western Conference with a 21-18 record and having gone 1-4 without LeBron James, Bleacher Report‘s Pincus wrapped up by saying that the team needs Ingram to step up, not only so he could help Los Angeles avoid a further slide down the standings, but also to improve his potential trade value.