When former Blue Devil Brandon Ingram was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans by the Los Angeles Lakers in 2019 as part of the deal to move malcontent Anthony Davis, no one was sure what to make of it.
Ingram had his moments with the Lakers to be sure. There is a video floating around where he stops the Kings from inbounding the ball four times in a row. True, three of them he kicked away, but he still did it (the fourth he picked off by hand). Then-teammate LeBron James loved it.
A lot of it wasn’t as happy. Ingram, who was always pretty mellow at Duke, got into an ugly situation vs. the Rockets: first he shoved James Harden after a break and then, when the situation grew ugly, he charged in to throw punches. You can talk about the wisdom of a 6-8, 190 lb. guy punching anyone but you can’t doubt his courage.
When he was traded, you got the sense that he felt like he had a second lease on life. And in New Orleans, he has blossomed and become an All-Star level player.
He said once that LA was a bigger city than he was comfortable in, or words to that effect. You got the feeling that New Orleans, a much smaller city, and southern, was a better fit.
When Zion Williamson came along, they evolved quickly into a dynamic pair. Last season, when Williamson was out, Ingram averaged 22.7 ppg, 5.8 boards and 5.6 assists. In the season he played with Williamson, Ingram managed 23.1 ppg, five boards and 4.5 assists.
For some reason, people keep wondering if they can play together. Since they’ve already succeeded, why does this keep coming up?
Neither player is selfish. Both are versatile and intelligent. If you’re Williamson, with his profound talent, you don’t have to be intelligent, but if you’re Ingram and 6-8 and just 190, you certainly can’t push people around or overwhelm them.
Aside from the former Blue Devils, New Orleans also now has CJ McCollum, Jonas Valanciunas, Larry Nance, Trey Murphy, Herb Jones and rookie Dyson Daniels.
The Pelicans have put together a roster that is long on smart players who can subordinate themselves to a greater goal and everyone will understand that Williamson and Ingram could get you about 60 points a night. The team averaged 109.3 last season without Williamson and with Ingram carrying an extra load. The offense isn’t an issue or at least it certainly shouldn't be.
Assuming the Pels are smart enough to share the ball, which seems a good bet, the real question is defense.
Williamson hasn’t shown much on that end, and nowhere near what he showed at Duke. Ingram can be a superb defender. Jones is as well. McCollum is a thorough professional who will play hard on both ends and rookie Dyson Daniels was brought in for his defense. We wouldn’t overlook Jose Alvarado either. That guy has enormous heart and sets the standard for hard work.
Incidentally, John Butler and Dereon Seabron, who played for Florida State and NC State last season, are also on the roster and could find homes in the Big Easy.
If things go well, the Pelicans could be a dynamic team this season and could build towards a championship level from there.