The puzzle doesn’t fit.

Trying to peice together the last few weeks just doesn’t make sense. Think about it.

Why haven’t the Lakers grabbed Kawhi Leonard yet? As one of the literal top 3/4 players in the entire world, Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka should have already pulled the trigger on trading for him. But something or, someone, is holding them back.

Why did LeBron James choose the Lakers, exactly? Yes, Southern California is a great place to live, and the Lakers are certainly a team capable of expanding his brand, but nothing about their team tells anyone that they’re ready to compete right now. Yet, LeBron chose them, and the Lakers have reportedly adopted a “win now” mentality. How is that so?

See, there’s a reason the Lakers have surged back to relevancy. And it started, believe it or not, back in the 2016 NBA Draft. Take this quote by The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor on the youngster that’s making everything work for the Lakers:

“LeBron has never played with anyone like what Ingram could be. He’s had a ball-dominant point guard in Irving, an athletic slasher in Dwyane Wade, a playmaking power forward in Kevin Love, and a stretch power forward in Chris Bosh. Ingram blends all of those qualities, which is why some scouts and executives had him ranked no. 1 ahead of Ben Simmons in the 2016 draft—and still do, as crazy as it might sound. Ingram can be whatever the Lakers—or Spurs—need him to be.”

Even LeBron James himself sees something special (per Zach Lowe):

“But LeBron is a Laker, and he is not pressuring L.A. to acquire a second star now, per sources familiar with his thinking. His decision to come alone for three guaranteed seasons speaks for itself. He knows Ingram has at least borderline All-Star potential, and that the 2019 free-agency class is loaded beyond Leonard. He has faith in the combined powers of his supernova talent and the Lakers brand.”

Brandon Ingram is the link here. The Laker’s don’t have Kahwi yet because they aren’t willing to include Brandon Ingram and the Spurs aren’t willing to take any deal without Ingram in it. LeBron James chose to play for the Lakers not just for the lifestyle and legacy, but also to win. He sees mega-potential in Brandon Ingram. Enough to be content with who the Lakers have. Enough to believe he can win in the Purple and Gold.

So, just how good will B.I. become? Who the heck knows. The guy only averaged just a little over 16 points per game last season and hasn’t exactly played at a star level. But there’s a reason why the Lakers are so invested in this kid. He improved drastically from his rookie to sophomore year, going up in literally every statistical category.

Plus his skillset, as Kevin pointed out, is as versatile and wide-ranged as anyone in the league.

Yet, when people talk about LA, they talk about LeBron… and Stephenson, and Rondo, and Lonzo. But maybe Ingram is the difference maker here. For LeBron and the Lakers camp, that certainly seems to follow their line of thinking.

Of course, he’ll have to go out and prove himself this upcoming season, or those beliefs could turn into serious doubt. For now, though, the Lakers may very well have one extra star than most others are giving them credit for.