Los Angeles Lakers rising star Brandon Ingram isn't sure whether the organization was making a statement when it placed his locker alongside superstar LeBron James following the latter's decision to sign in L.A., but he's pleased with the rebuilt roster's early performance.
"It could be a message," he said. "I don't know. I know when we're on the court (with James) that…Wow."
Ingram made a significant jump between his first two seasons after getting selected with the second overall pick in the 2016 draft. He averaged 16.1 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists across 59 games, while he shot 47 percent from the field (up from 40.2 percent) and 39 percent from three (up from 29.4 percent).
Now the 21-year-old Duke product wants to take the next step.
"I want to be an All-Star," Ingram told Oram. "I want to be an All-Star this year."
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Playing alongside James, who's always going to attract the opponent's top wing defender, should open the door for an even more efficient offensive campaign.
For his part, the four-time NBA MVP told The Athletic that Ingram is a "very special talent" with a "ton of upside."
"I know what I see in him and he's looking for this opportunity to make this next jump in his third year," LeBron said.
James, Ingram, Kyle Kuzma and Lonzo Ball give the Lakers a dangerous core, and the bench is loaded with useful role players, including Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Michael Beasley, Lance Stephenson and Rajon Rondo.
The question is how Los Angeles can best fill the fifth spot in its starting lineup. Neither true center JaVale McGee or Ivica Zubac are inspiring options, but pushing James or Kuzma to center so the squad can play small ball could create defensive issues.
Head coach Luke Walton will have to tinker with different units in the early months of the season until something clicks, which could cause a sluggish start.
Ingram sounds optimistic about the Lakers' potential, though. And the pieces are in place to contend in the loaded Western Conference if Walton can make them all fit together.
L.A. kicks off the regular season Oct. 18 against the Portland Trail Blazers.