Brandon Ingram worth every penny for New Orleans Pelicans this summer

PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 21: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans warms up prior to taking on the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on February 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)
PORTLAND, OREGON - FEBRUARY 21: Brandon Ingram #14 of the New Orleans Pelicans warms up prior to taking on the Portland Trail Blazers at Moda Center on February 21, 2020 in Portland, Oregon. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

With rumors swirling about the New Orleans Pelicans potentially letting Brandon Ingram hit the market, it doesn’t seem realistic for either party.

Still having 26 games to keep cementing an excellent first season with the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram is making himself worth every cent of a max contract heading into his restricted free agency this summer.

However, the reported interest in a longterm deal between the two parties hasn’t come without some external assumptions and guessing.

The New Orleans Pelicans’ front office and Ingram couldn’t reach an agreement on an extension before the season, as the team wanted to see what the forward could do in New Orleans after his career-threatening injury. A deal before the rookie extension was never on the table.

In fact, when asked about signing anything other a max contract by Dan Feldman of NBC Sports before the All-Star Game, Ingram explained that he understands what his own work ethic can do for his wallet.

"“I understood everything that went on with the contract and everything, because they wanted to know if I was going to be extremely healthy, if something was going to come back,” Brandon Ingram said to Feldman. “Once I figured out the reason why they didn’t want to do the extension, we didn’t go any further with it. I knew it was not going to be the number we wanted.”"

This week, an article by Tim Bontemps of ESPN speculated that Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations could let Brandon Ingram wade the waters of restricted free agency, further saying that some executives don’t think the forward is worth a maximum contract.

"“I wonder if [Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin] will hardball [Brandon Ingram] and say, ‘Get an offer,'” one executive asked to Bontemps. “Where is he getting it from?”"

In the report, it was stated that “most” executives don’t think of Ingram as a maximum free agent, it seems illogical for the Pelicans not to do a deal with Ingram if another club is going to offer the forward a similar salary figure.

Perhaps the one who gave the quote was someone like John Paxson from the Chicago Bulls, who let his star young player in Zach LaVine hit restricted free agency in 2018, though the team matched the Sacramento Kings‘ 4-yr., $78 million offer sheet.

There was a lot more money on tables around the league in prior seasons; this year, there just isn’t a whole lot of teams with cap space.

Letting Ingram hit the market means a team with cap room like the Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, or Charlotte Hornets will be likely to offer him a max contract that the Pelicans will have no reason not to match.

Allowing Ingram hit the market doesn’t seem like a logical step for this organization, especially with its culture now truly starting to blossom with Zion Williamson in the mix.

Starting to look like a special group of players this season and with many of his teammates under contract for at least the next, bringing Ingram back is the only sensical path ahead for this franchise; David Griffin is plenty smart enough to realize this reality.

In his first season for the New Orleans Pelicans, Brandon Ingram has shown that he’ll do everything in his power to reach his ceiling.

Thanks in part to his legendary work ethic and in part to some great work put in by the New Orleans Pelicans’ training/coaching staff, Brandon Ingram looks more like a second-overall pick, perhaps even on the path to being the best player from the 2016 draft class.

Not only has he elevated the things he already did well with the Los Angeles Lakers in his first three seasons, but he’s also really started to diversify his game, becoming an incredibly dynamic playmaking threat for the Pelicans.

Not only do his 24.7 points per contest rank 13th in the NBA; the 22-year-old forward ranks in the 88th percentile in points per shot attempt per Cleaning the Glass, posting a rate of 121.8 points per 100 attempts.

Drastically improving his shooting stroke, Ingram has collaborated with New Orleans Pelicans’ shooting guru this season, often coming for a second session after practice to get up shots with the coach.

It’s paying clear dividends, as Ingram is shooting 40.5% on 6.2 three-point attempts per contest, up from his 32.9% rate on 2 attempts per contest in three years with the Lakers.

Brandon Ingram has become elite at drawing contact, becoming one of the league’s most effective and least-egregious drawers of fouls.

Shooting 86.2% from the line this season, 14.6% of Ingram’s field goal attempts create fouls, which ranks in the 89th percentile per Cleaning the Glass.

Attempting 6.1 free throws per contest, ranking 18th in the league, while making 5.3 of those looks, ranking 14th in the conference.

Making life hard on defenders by creating contact, Ingram has become a very uncomfortable coverage assignment in the paint. He converts 26.3% of his and-one looks, plus shoots 64% on looks around the rim.

All the while, Ingram draws contact in an appreciable way, without awkwardly contorting his body like James Harden (who Ingram famously doesn’t like). After all, that’s not the way Kinston, North Carolina raised Brandon Ingram to play basketball.

Ingram is a beloved by his teammates for his work ethic, quiet nature, and humble personality, traits that aren’t always in the DNA of NBA All-Stars.

"“[Making the All-Star Game] would show all of the hard work he’s put in, the journey he’s had,” Josh Hart said prior to the announcement that Ingram being chosen an All-Star. “The NBA is very situational. Obviously he’s in a great situation here, where he’s able to excel and be the player we knew he was. It would be very exciting (to find out he’s an All-Star).”"

There’s also some promise of a defensive renaissance for Ingram once he becomes more comfortable with the system run by Pelicans’ defensive guru Jeff Bzdelik.

Showing pretty good defensive capabilities as a member of both the Duke Blue Devils and Los Angeles Lakers, it’s been mildly strange to see him as part of such a rollercoaster group in New Orleans.

On occasion, some have expressed concerns about his long-term ability to fit with Zion Williamson. However, the addition of Williamson into the Pelicans’ lineup has just made Ingram a better player.

Already a daunting offensive player, Brandon Ingram’s development as a passer has been radiant since Zion returned to the teams.

Earlier in the season, we saw Ingram start to create similar looks on the interior for Derrick Favors, drawing coverage on his drives to create wide-open looks for a slashing/crashing center.

With Zion in the fold, the duo players can trade roles on these looks, with their speed and physicality forcing other interior defenders to help the ball carrier, thus creating a perfect lane for someone to fill for an easy look around the rim.

The ceiling is still rising for Brandon Ingram, which should be incredible news for the New Orleans Pelicans’ front office. When you have a talent like Ingram, especially considering his elite work ethic, it doesn’t make any sense to play games with their contract.

Next. Ranking Zion against all rookies and sophomores. dark

Though most covering the team are convinced that the Pelicans and Ingram are comfortable signing a max deal with each other this summer, it doesn’t stop external parties from hoping that something falls through, because those parties probably want the All-Star forward on their side.