Los Angeles Lakers consider Brandon Ingram untouchable

Feb 2, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles as Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 2, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Los Angeles Lakers forward Brandon Ingram (14) dribbles as Washington Wizards forward Kelly Oubre Jr. (12) defends during the first half at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Lakers have quite a stable of young talent, but the one player that Magic Johnson considers untouchable is Brandon Ingram.

The Los Angeles Lakers are in the process of rebuilding. It is not a process they are used to seeing in Los Angeles, as the Lakers are on the NBA’s marquee franchises. They are currently riding their worst playoff drought in franchise history, which reached four seasons this year.

As a result, the Lakers have been spending a lot of time at the top of NBA Drafts. They landed the second overall pick for a third consecutive year earlier in the month via the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery. It will be the fourth consecutive season that the Lakers are selecting in the top-10.

With so many top picks, the Lakers have put together an impressive group of young talent. Julius Randle was selected seventh overall in 2014. D’Angelo Russell was selected second overall in 2015. Last year, it was Brandon Ingram selected second. The Lakers are hoping they can land another building block with the second pick this season, and there will be plenty of options available.

The Lakers have also found success outside of the lottery in recent years. Jordan Clarkson was acquired from the Washington Wizards in 2014 after being selected 46th overall. Larry Nance Jr. has turned into a strong bench piece after being the 27th overall pick in 2015. Ivica Zubac showcased a ton of potential during his rookie season after being selected 32nd in the 2016 NBA Draft.

One potential route for the Lakers to take is to let these young players play and see how they grow. There was a lot of development towards the end of the 2016-17 season, including a five-game winning streak in April.

Many people would think that the Lakers would want to keep this young group together. But, if a move arises that management thinks will improve the team, they will pull the trigger. Just don’t expect Ingram to be in any of those potential deals.

In a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles, Magic Johnson discussed the state of the team. During the discussion, the topic of untouchable players arose and the one player that Johnson named was Ingram.

"“I would say probably the only player that we would say, hey, we would probably not move is Brandon Ingram,” Johnson, the Lakers president of basketball operations said Thursday in a radio interview with ESPN Los Angeles.“I think that we’re excited about Brandon, his length, his size, his agility, his athleticism. And then when you think about, you know, he was a baby coming in, in his first year last season and we see that he really has a high ceiling and we’re excited about what he can possibly turn into.”"

Ingram is a tantalizing prospect; there is a reason the Lakers selected him second overall. That did not always shine through during his rookie season. Ingram struggled out of the gate but picked things up after the All-Star break once the Lakers committed to playing their youngsters.

Ingram averaged 13.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists after the All-Star break, after averaging 8.0 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 1.9 assists prior to the break. All in all, Ingram averaged 9.4 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game.

Not a great year, but the potential is there. Part of Ingram’s struggles early in the season could have been the Lakers putting too much on his plate. They tried him as a backup point guard, also using him at shooting guard and power forward in addition to his natural spot at small forward.

It makes sense to make Ingram untouchable, for now. It is clear that he has a lot of development ahead, but he is only 79 games into his NBA career. Unlike other young guns such as Russell and Randle, the Lakers don’t truly know what they have in Ingram.

Will he add some weight and strength, filling out so he can remain at forward? Or will the Lakers have to move him to the backcourt, where he should be athletic enough to keep up with most shooting guards?

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Only time will tell. But for now, the Lakers are banking on Ingram reaching his potential and being one of the building blocks for their next championship winning team.