The Lakers have been sneaky good since the first of the year, going 17-8 in their last 25, with a top-10 offense and defense in that time.
One key to that — Brandon Ingram. The second-year player’s shot creation has been big on offense, while on defense he is using his length better to disrupt and get boards. Which is why the fact he’ll be out at least a week with a strained hip flexor is bad news.
The earliest he returns is next Sunday vs. Cleveland.
When drafted a scout told me it would take a little time for Ingram in the NBA — he had a cerebral game he had to figure out how to fit into the league, plus he had to get stronger. This season that has started to come together, Ingram is averaging 16.2 points and 5.4 rebounds, working as a secondary playmaker (or primary, when Lonzo Ball is out). Ingram is fantastic in transition, has been okay but improving as a pick-and-roll ball handler (0.85 points per possession when he is that guy, including passes), and he’s now a dangerous spot-up guy from his spots on the floor. He’s still taking a lot of mid-range jumpers (42 percent of his attempts) and hits just 35 percent on those, but he’s improving and picking his spots better.
These last 20 games for the Lakers this season are about player development, just as the entire season has been (no, the Lakers are not making the playoffs, any Lakers fan asking that needs to go look at the standings again). That’s why the injuries to rookie Josh Hart and now Ingram are setbacks — the more time on the court the better, and these guys are losing some.