The New Orleans Pelicans will have only one player in the NBA All-Star game and his name is not Zion, which could mean big things for the Pelicans.
If you watched the last two New Orleans Pelicans’ games and had to guess which player would represent them in the All-Star game, your answer would undoubtedly be rookie sensation Zion Williamson, who has exceeded his considerable hype and been dominant since returning to the lineup.
But the correct answer would be Brandon Ingram, who has quietly become one of the top power forwards in the league. Ingram has been spectacular this season, averaging 24.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists, all career highs. However, with Williamson missing a good chunk of the first half, Ingram has toiled in relative obscurity, as the Pelicans got off to a poor start and got very little national attention from the media. The NBA did eventually take notice and Ingram was selected for his first All-Star game in his fourth season at age 22.
He has missed the last few games with an ankle injury and is questionable for the All-Star game, but his appearance (even if he doesn’t play) should boost his national profile and allow the world to notice what Pelicans’ fans have been yelling all year, which is that Ingram is a special player.
Ingram may not have gotten much national spotlight thus far, but his All-Star appearance could have big implications for the Pelicans moving forward. Here are two reasons why Ingram making the All-Star game is a big deal for the New Orleans Pelicans.
It’s Not Just Zion
Most of the Pelicans’ news this season has revolved around rookie Williamson, whose high-flying style of play and spectacular dunks appeal to even the most casual fan. But the most important player on the team this season has been Ingram. As the centerpiece of the Anthony Davis trade, Ingram’s success is paramount for the Pelicans, as is shows they didn’t get fleeced when they traded one of the top-five players in the NBA to the Lakers. Losing Davis obviously left a big hole, but Ingram has stepped up.
The Pelicans don’t need Ingram to be Davis, but he hasn’t been far off. Davis is only slightly ahead of Ingram in points and rebounds, but otherwise it appears as though the Pelicans struck gold when trading the Brow. This is especially true if you take a look at Davis’ numbers when he was 22, as Ingram is now. They are virtually the same, with Davis being a slightly better rebounder and Ingram a better passer. Ingram’s All-Star nod shows that the Pelicans made the right call and may have found a younger version of Davis.
While Zion’s array of highlight reel dunks has gotten most of the attention, Ingram’s All-Star appearance should remind fans that the Pelicans are not a one man team. In fact, with Williamson, Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart, Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Nicolo Melli and Jaxson Hayes, the Pelicans have the most talented and exciting young team in the NBA. Ingram’s breakout season should put the league on notice that the Pelicans are coming up and they had better be ready.
While Zion’s return has been the big story it will take more than one guy to put together a playoff run and raise the value of the team. Ingram’s ascendance will help the team build value, draw free agents, and eventually, he and Zion could be the best frontcourt in the NBA. Unfortunately, Ingram’s play will also lead the Pelicans to their most important decision as a franchise.