Brandon Ingram of the New Orleans Pelicans is one of the best young players in the NBA. Too bad most fans and media members don’t know it.
Recently, the sports world and the media, in general, have been bombarded with headlines from the memoirs released by a former NBA player. Depending on who you ask, he was either the most underrated superstar of all time or the luckiest recipient of a draft-day trade in NBA history. Either way, the man went on to win six NBA championships, two gold medals and was ultimately inducted into the Hall Of Fame.
That led me to do some thinking. Which current NBA star is the most underrated or overlooked player in the league? The conclusion I came to is that the man who most deserves more credit than he receives is New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram. While being taken as the second overall pick in the draft, winning the Most Improved Player Award, and making an All-Star appearance would suggest that Ingram’s ability is not a secret, rarely is he mentioned in the same breath as the other up-and-coming stars in the NBA.
Brandon Ingram is the Most Underrated Player in the NBA
The publicity surrounding the “next” generation of talent all seems to go to Luka Dončić of the Dallas Mavericks, Trae Young of the Atlanta Hawks, Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies, or even Ingram’s teammate, Zion Williamson. Other than Dončić, who I consider to be one of the top three players in the world, I would argue that Ingram has the potential to be just as good as any of the aforementioned players. That being said, I want to take a few minutes and share with you all of the reasons I believe Brandon Ingram is the most underrated player in the NBA.
Brandon Ingram is a naturally skinny guy. Living in a barbecue hub like Louisiana since 2019 hasn’t done anything to add weight to his frame. However, this year at media day, he came in noticeably bigger than ever before. Not only did he look bigger, but it appeared that he put on the right type of weight, pure muscle. This can only come from repetitions in the weight room. Knowing that his increased productivity over the last two seasons will make him the target of defensive schemes, Ingram wisely pumped iron in the offseason to prepare. The work paid off and it shows.
In addition to doing what it takes to take his physique to the next level, Ingram has also improved as a basketball player every year. For example, as a rookie, he averaged 9.4 points per game. However, since his second season in the NBA, he’s never averaged fewer than 16.1 points per game. That type of drastic improvement can only come from dedication in the gym. The work he’s put in is also evident at the free-throw line. Ingram shot under 70% from the charity stripe in each of his first three seasons. However, over the last two seasons, he’s shot 85.1 and 87.8% from the line respectively. To go from below average to an almost 90% shooter is more evidence of Ingram’s work ethic. It’s part of what makes him special.
Little to No FanFare
Without the help of a search engine, how many NBA fans could guess which sneaker brand Brandon Ingram has a deal with? The fact is, he is not the subject of national campaign ads or billboards. His name is often omitted during discussions about the best forward in the league. Kevin Durant, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and LeBron James are in a class by themselves. However, outside of those three, Ingram has the potential to be as impactful as any other forward in the league. His per-game averages since arriving in New Orleans, 23.9 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 4.5 assists, confirm that declaration.
Ingram is not the first talented player to garner less attention than his abilities warranted. When he was a member of the Utah Jazz, most fans had no idea just how good Gordon Hayward really was. It’s a shame that injuries interrupted his prime. However, unlike Ingram, Hayward enjoyed the luxury of playing for a playoff team the lone season he was named an All-Star. The Jazz advanced to the second round that season and lost to the eventual champion Golden State Warriors. It was Hayward’s performance on the playoff stage that won him mainstream attention. Unfortunately for Ingram, he’s yet to make a postseason appearance in the NBA, thus his abilities go largely unrecognized.
Ability to Avoid Distractions
Few players have had the number of high-profile teammates or played under the same intense scrutiny that Ingram has. For starters, he was selected by the Los Angeles Lakers, the most glamorous franchise in the NBA. Although the team failed to make the playoffs in each of his three seasons there, expectations were always high. When the team drafted highly touted guard, Lonzo Ball out of UCLA before Ingram’s second season, the media’s magnifying glass was placed on the whole team. When the team acquired superstar LeBron James before Ingram’s third season, the team officially became the most scrutinized franchise in the entire league.
The following summer, the conversation surrounding the Lakers was their potential acquisition of All-Star Anthony Davis. Much of the chatter had to do with who they might have to give up in order to get him. Ingram’s name was constantly brought up and, sure enough, he was sent to the New Orleans Pelicans along with several other players in exchange for Davis. To add to the media circus, the team also had the number one pick in the draft. They would go on to select a highly sought-after phenom, Zion Williamson. A lot of players would have folded after being traded and then receiving second billing behind a rookie. However, Ingram responded by making his first All-Star team and being named the NBA’s Most Improved Player. That’s grace under fire.
At 6’8″ with the ability to score in a variety of ways, it’s not unfathomable to compare Ingram to Hall of Famer Tracy McGrady. As a member of the Orlando Magic, T-Mac, who has a similar physique to Ingram, torched the league. His back-to-back scoring titles were displays of raw offensive firepower and brilliance. Ingram could average close to 30 points per game if he was absolutely determined to do so. However, he prefers to let the game come to him.
Last season, Williamson enjoyed the best health of his pro career. As a result, he was named an All-Star for the first time. Ball, who struggled at times in Los Angeles, also enjoyed a breakout season. These two players were able to flourish alongside Ingram, because of the manner in which he scored his 23.8 points per game. Instead of shooting over double teams and taking off-balance shots, Ingram chose to play the game the right way. His basketball IQ and unselfish play are rarely talked about. However, they are two of the reasons he belongs in the conversation surrounding the NBA’s rising stars.
Through Ingram’s first five years in the NBA, his scoring increased every season. Last season, he averaged a career-high 23.8 points per game. So far this year, he’s scoring at a clip of 25.0 points per game. No matter how you look at it, Ingram can put the ball in the basket. It’s about time he’s recognized as one of the most dynamic young scorers in the league. The next time someone mentions Jayson Tatum of the Boston Celtics or Zach LaVine of the Chicago Bulls, as one of the best emerging wing players in basketball, make sure to throw Ingram’s name in the mix. He deserves it.
Ingram is at a disadvantage when it comes to media coverage for several reasons. For starters, New Orleans is not a media behemoth like New York City, Los Angeles, or Chicago. He also plays with the former number one overall draft pick who the media is unfairly obsessed with, even when he’s sidelined. However, Ingram has never gone out of his way to draw attention to himself or be demonstrative. He prefers to let his game do all the talking. While it may be unfair that Ingram is so underrated, it’s also remarkable that he seems not to care. In today’s age of oversaturation, Ingram’s laid-back approach is commendable and refreshing.
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