In his fourth season in the league, Brandon Ingram took the next step in his career, capping off his campaign with the Most Improved Player of the Year award.
Ingram was named a first-time All-Star this season with career-best averages of 23.8 points, 6.1 rebounds and 4.2 assists while shooting 46.3% from the field and 39.1% from deep.
At just 22 years old, he has quickly emerged as the Pelicans most reliable bucket getter, blossoming into a nightly offensive powerhouse with his combination of speed, size, and tough shot-making ability, making him a tough cover for opposing defences.
Filling the Anthony-Davis sized void on the Pelicans was never going to be an easy job as the centrepiece of the blockbuster off-season trade, but away from the bright lights of Los Angeles, Ingram quietly developed into a star this season - and most importantly he found joy in his new environment in NOLA.
"I think this year I had the most fun, playing basketball the way I wanted to play," Ingram said.
"Having the opportunity to be in the gym every day with my teammates who love to do the same thing that I love to do. Seeing so many guys coming back to the gym all the time, always asking for different advice on the floor so they can get better In their game.
"That was the most enjoyable moment for me. I don't think I have a stat or anything that made me the happiest or motivated me the most."
As you can see in the table above, the steady rise in production and efficiency is a testament to the work he's put in, but also the trust the Pelicans organisation has in him as a focal point for the offence, leading them in field goal attempts per game this season (17.7).
He topped 30 points on 11 occasions this season and enjoyed a career-high 49-point outing against the Utah Jazz in January - icing the contest with the game-winner!
While many will argue that Ingram's play in his fourth season is just a matter of him meeting his lofty expectations as a former No. 2 overall pick, his development into a leader and late-game closer is hard to ignore.
Despite missing out on a playoff berth this season, the Pelicans have plenty to be optimistic about behind the development of their young core of players including Zion Williamson, Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker.
Of the group, Ingram is the lone pure scorer and will be central to their plans moving forward.
He is set to become a restricted free agent this off-season, with the Pelicans able to match any offer that comes his way from rival teams. The good news for the Pelicans, Ingram says re-signing in New Orleans is his 'top choice.'
"I've seen a lot of New Orleans," Ingram said. "I've been around a lot of good people in the organization, and definitely will be a top choice for me to come back. Of course, it's going to be a long thought process in the offseason and figuring out where I want to be, but this is definitely a special place with a lot of really, really good people and a lot of genuine people, so I'm enjoying where I am at."
While his game has gone to new heights this season, he still has improvements to make on the defensive end and improving the consistency of his 3-point shot, but if the Pelicans can put the right pieces around him and Zion Williamson, it won't be long before they are not only a playoff team, but a threat in the Western Conference.
The future is now.