The once-reeling New Orleans Pelicans are now winners of three straight after their 116-107 victory over the Atlanta Hawks. And while many Pelicans deserve credit for this win, the main contributor was Brandon Ingram, who, in his sixth game back from injury, added 30 points on 11 of 18 shooting from the floor.
But hidden beneath his gaudy scoring numbers was another impressive box score output that encapsulates a more under appreciated dimension of Ingram’s game: his eight assists.
The league-wide discourse around Ingram typically paints him in a similar vein to the likes of Kobe Bryant and DeMar DeRozan. All three of these fellows are venerable bucket-getters, capable of draining some of the most difficult jumpers known to man.
And like Bryant and DeRozan, people often tend to oversimplify Ingram’s offensive value. There are players in the NBA that are employed for the sole purpose of getting buckets. However, those players hardly ever reach the All-Star heights this trio has conquered.
The bucket-getters that graduate to All-Star status are the ones that are able to make the extra attention that their shot-making ability warrants matter at a macro-level.
To understand, let’s take a look at one of Ingram’s best feeds from last night: a laydown pass to Larry Nance Jr.:
Ingram identifies the mismatch in Trae Young, drives passed him (thereby creating the advantage), forces help to rotate over, and finds Nance for an easy finish around the rim.
Teams fear Ingram’s ability to score the basketball, and because of this, they put themselves in unfavorable situations to stop him. The tradeoff of this approach is that, for a brief moment in time, an offensive player is unattended to.
And last night, just like he has over the last couple of seasons, Ingram slowed the game down in his mind and found the open offensive player before it was too late.
The best passers are the ones who set up their teammates with open threes, layups, and dunks. As you can see from the montage above, that’s exactly what Ingram did yesterday versus Atlanta.
Arguably his best decision of the night came on a play where he wasn’t even given credit for the assist.
Early in the third quarter, the Pelicans ran a step-up pick and roll for Ingram. The Hawks countered by hedging (momentarily sending two defenders at the ball) the ballscreen. This blurred Ingram’s sight lines, making it difficult for him to hit the rolling Herb Jones.
So, instead of attempting the risky pass, he re-angles the vantage point by tossing it to Jonas Valanciunas, who responds by finding Jones for the easy finish.
Ingram touched on his offensive process during his postgame press conference. “I’m able to score the basketball, but I’m also able to look for the best shot on the floor,” Ingram told the media after the Pelicans’ win over Atlanta. “That helps me out a lot.”
If Ingram was only inclined to score, the defense would always over-help on him because they know they won’t get burned by his playmaking. But because he’s able to blend the two components, he becomes a much more balanced (and unpredictable) offensive focal point.
The Pelicans needed that balance tonight. And they will continue to need it moving forward, if they are going to improve their win streak from three games to four.