After a breakout regular season that saw him live up to the billing of a former second overall pick, Brandon Ingram reaped the reward.
On Monday evening, it seemed like a regular slate of playoff games for the NBA. However, a special announcement was made just before Game 1 between the Heat and the Bucks tipped off. In a Zoom call with family members, the former Blue Devil standout was informed that he had received the honor of Most Improved Player thanks to his stellar campaign.
Ingram, who was dealt to the Pelicans last summer in the trade that sent Anthony Davis to the Lakers, saw an expanded role in Alvin Gentry's fast-paced offensive attack. With averages of 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game, the North Carolina native saw marked increases in each major category.
In his first three seasons as a professional, Ingram dealt with injuries and questions regarding his slender frame. The arrival of LeBron James to Los Angeles in the summer of 2018 also created uncertainty surrounding Ingram's role. New Orleans, however, presented a fresh start, as the 2016 ACC Rookie of the Year was able to be a focal point of the system.
If recent recipients of the Most Improved Player Award are any indication, the next few seasons could see Ingram become a superstar in The Association. In the last five seasons, Jimmy Butler, CJ McCollum, Giannis Antetokuonmpo, Victor Oladipo and Pascal Siakam have taken home the crown that indicates when a player is ascending.
Ingram, who beat out Dallas Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo for the distinction, will now look to build on his spectacular season and become a face of the franchise.