Nothing is ever what it seems in the NBA. And this is why the Los Angeles Lakers should be grateful Paul George chose to stay with the Oklahoma City Thunder this offseason. Well before his departure from the Indiana Pacers, Paul admitted that he would love to play for his hometown team in L.A.. Instead of letting that happen, the Pacers shipped him off to OKC and that move is exactly what Brandon Ingram needed to happen.
Let me explain.
Paul George is an All-Star. He’s one of the best two-way players in the NBA and as we’ve seen this past offseason, a wanted man. His presence would turn a bubble team into a contender with ease. This is what the Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder were hoping for. However, the Los Angeles Lakers were in a different boat.
Head of Basketball Operations, Magic Johnson, believed that in one season, the Lakers’ fortunes were set to change with George on board. Did Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka ever stop to think that they may already have their own version in the starting lineup? The Lakers selected Ingram with the second pick in the 2016 NBA Draft and for a rookie on a rebuilding team, he played pretty well. How well? Ingram averaged 9.4 points and 4.0 rebounds in 28.8 minutes of action.
While George is the player that he is now, let’s not forget he was once a baby-faced rookie as well. No one saw his outburst coming. In 2010-11, PG-13 averaged 7.8 points then that climbed to 12.1 points per game for his second season, with similar numbers as Ingram.
As much as the Lakers THINK they needed George, he may have been fool’s gold for what they are trying to build. Take a look at the D’Angelo Russell and Lonzo Ball situation. Russell was sent packing after the Lakers fell in love with the idea of taking the local kid from UCLA. Now, it looks as if they may have made a mistake. With the addition of LeBon James, Russell is a better fit for this current Lakers’ team than Ball, considering that he’s a better spot-up shooter.
This is the case with George and Ingram.
With George deciding to stay in OKC, the Lakers will get a chance to see if Ingram can become the two-way player that George is. The hope is that he can, and the best part is, he’s much cheaper and will be a better fit playing alongside LeBron. Why pay $30M+ per year for a player when his potential clone could already wearing be Purple & Gold?
Should The Los Angeles Lakers Be Sold On Brandon Ingram?
What fans see is the 23.7 points and 6.6 rebounds per game in his last year with the Indiana Pacers. But what they fail to realize is that those 23.7 points were generated from 18.0 shots, 6.6 three-point attempts and 35.9 minutes per game as the Pacers’ primary scorer. This season, George is averaging 25.3 points, 5,3 rebounds, and 3.7 assists while shooting .382 percent from the floor in 36.0 minutes per contest. He’s also attempting 10+ three-pointers per game as well. What happens if Ingram is given those same opportunities for the Lakers? Would the outcome be the same?
In 2018-19, Brandon Ingram is averaging 14.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, and 0.5 assists while shooting .522 percent from the field. The issue for his decline in production is not that he’s struggling, it’s that the Lakers are more well-rounded than they were a season ago. He’s currently playing 28.0 minutes per contest, which is eight minutes less than George. It’s also worth noting that Ingram averages 11.2 fewer shot attempts.
While fans may have expected a huge leap in his third season, Ingram is still just 21 years-old and has plenty of time left to blossom into the player the Los Angeles Lakers hoped would join the team this past offseason.
I understand what Magic was shooting for and the excitement that a player like George would bring for a team looking for that Kobe Bryant feel. But why be so fast? Why were they ready to cast away a player they have yet to show his full potential? Paul George is good, but something tells me that Brandon Ingram can be just as good, if not better in due time.