by Jonas Racel Ladera (@LakersHoopsPH)

Ingram scored game-best 31 points (13-21 FG) tied with LeBron James in a loss against the league-best Milwaukee Bucks.

After LeBron James signed with the Lakers, most of the attention was shift to the former 2nd overall-pick 3rd-year Forward Brandon Ingram whether he can be the second best player of the team and expected him to be LeBron’s Scottie Pippen. That high expectation is not a surprise as despite with all the hype surrounding Lonzo and Kuzma last season, it seems Ingram is still the most talented player and has the highest ceiling among the Lakers’ young core.

In his 2nd season, he averaged 16.1 points (team-high tied with Kuzma and Randle), 47% FG, 39% 3P (on 1.8 attempts), 5.3 rebounds, 3.9 assists in 59 games. Ingram thrived the most last season when Luke put him as the starting point guard due to Lonzo’s knee injury which gave him the green light to do what he does best; ball in his hands to create something for himself or others.

As we know from LeBron’s day in Cleveland and Miami, LeBron thrives next to 2-3 off-the-ball players who are good shooters and a big man who doesn’t need the ball on offense but a good rebounder. This has lead people to speculate whether Ingram is a great fit alongside LeBron as Ingram is not a good 3-point shooter. Despite all of that and misfit roster construction around him (McGee instead a Lopez-type big man beside him that provides him driving lane), Ingram is still filling up good but not great numbers, averaged 15.5 points in 44% shooting before LeBron’s groin injury.

Due to LeBron and Rondo’s injury, Luke scattered Ingram and Lonzo minutes to initiate the offense prior to Lonzo injury which gave him again the green light to dictate the offense which he does best, he averaged 18.9 points, 50% FG, 36% 3P (on 1.4 attempts), 3.9 assists, 5.9 rebounds. Again, the numbers showed that he’s better when he has the ball on his hand more.

But those speculations about being misfits alongside LeBron is starting to blur since LeBron returned from the groin injury, Ingram is averaging 21.1 points on 51% FG while LeBron is also averaging 25 points, 10.1 rebounds, 10.4 assists. They are finally playing well together.

Here are Ingram’s averages with LeBron on the floor vs when LeBron isn’t, during before LeBron’s injury and since return:

(via NBA.com/stats)

For all the speculation about LeBron is at his best when he’s surrounded by shooters, LeBron won total of 3 rings alongside Dwyane Wade and Kyrie Irving, players who need the ball on their hands to be more effective. Just like Wade and Kyrie, Ingram is playing well alongside LeBron by putting less pressure on LeBron to create every play in the half-court especially in clutch time instead of just being a catch-&-shoot guy.

LeBron let Ingram do the work even he has guarded by Chris Paul.

1 point lead last 1:22, every game is a must win game. LeBron trusted Ingram to take the clutch shot and Ingram delivered.

After another huge game (31 points, 13-21 FG, 8 rebounds) against the league best, Milwaukee Bucks, he’s averaging right now 18.1 points (career-best), 46% FG , 67.4% FT (on 5.6 attempts), 5.1 rebounds, 3 assists at 55.4 TS%. In last 15 games, Ingram is averaging 22 points, 55.9% FG, 35.7% 3P(on 1.9 attempts), 74.7% FT, 5.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists at 62.2 TS%. Also according to NBA.com, believe it or not, in last 15 games only Paul George is drawing more fouls per game more than Ingram. Just like his first 2 seasons, Ingram is playing better after the New Year, but this time it’s the right and best time as the team needs him to deliver more as Lonzo will be out at least 1 more week, Lakers’ veterans not named LeBron and Bullock are having a hard time and every game is a must-win as the playoff is still in reach.

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