Fresh off All-Star season, Brandon Ingram signs $158 M, max deal with Pelicans

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Brandon Ingram will be a cornerstone piece in New Orleans for years to come.

On Tuesday, the Pelicans and the 23-year-old forward agreed to a five-year deal worth $158 million, a source confirmed.

ESPN was first to report the news.

There was little suspense that Ingram and the Pelicans would come to a lucrative long-term agreement. Ingram shattered expectations in his first season in New Orleans. He averaged 23.4 points per game. He unexpectedly seized the reigns as the team’s primary scoring option, and in February, he was named an All-Star.

The No. 2 overall pick in the 2016 draft, Ingram has always had the ability to take defenders off the dribble and finish at the rim. What he lacked was a reliable outside shot — but that changed last season.

Ingram hit more 3s in one year with the Pelicans (150) than he did in three years with the Lakers (127). The strides he made as outside shooter were the result of mechanical changes he made under assistant coach Fred Vinson’s tutelage and long hours in the gym.

Ingram’s 3-point shot was at the heart of his campaign for Most Improved Player, which he won in August. It was an incredible turnaround for a player who was sidelined for the final two months of the 2018-19 season and most of the ensuing summer with a blood clotting condition. During the surgery to fix that issue, Ingram had a portion of his rib removed.

“He really has shown me something, from laying on his back in the hospital room to getting a rib removed and having surgery to coming back and playing this strong in such a short length of time,” Donald Ingram, Brandon’s father, told The Times-Picayune | New Orleans Advocate in July.

Ingram’s work ethic was one of the major reasons why the Pelicans were comfortable handing him a nine-figure deal.

“What’s really important to me about this is the work rate that brought this about,” said David Griffin, the Pelicans’ executive vice president of basketball operations, after Ingram was named Most Improved Player. “This isn’t something where B.I. just showed up at the gym. We talked a lot about this. He did two-a-days every practice day this year. He’s one of the only young players I’ve ever had to beg to work less. He puts himself to incredible lengths to get better. He loves the game and has passion for the game that few players do.”

The one-two punch of Ingram and Zion Williamson at forward was one of the biggest factors that drew new coach Stan Van Gundy to New Orleans. The young forwards are New Orleans’ foundational pieces now that Jrue Holiday is no longer in the picture.

Ingram is a proven scorer. In 62 games, he failed to hit the 20-point mark only 16 times. He broke the 30-point barrier 11 times. In January, he was a missed free throw away from scoring 50 for the first time in his career.

His challenge now is to become a more complete player. Ingram has the tools to become better defensively. He must commit on that end. The Pelicans finished last season 21st in defensive efficiency. Their inability to get stops was one of the biggest factors in their 13th-place finish in the Western Conference.

Ingram improved by leaps and bounds in his first season with the Pelicans. For them to make the playoffs and begin making deep runs, that upward trajectory will need to continue.

Ingram shattered all expectations in his first season in New Orleans, and he was handsomely rewarded for it.

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