Brandon Ingram, Zion Williamson nominees for annual NBA awards

Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson have started 20-plus games together for New Orleans this season, emerging as one of the league’s most promising young duos. Under normal circumstances, the Pelicans’ starting forwards would also be spending a summer evening walking the red carpet at the NBA Awards ceremony in Los Angeles, but that annual event won’t be held in 2020 due to a pandemic. Nonetheless, first-time All-Star Ingram, 22, and No. 1 overall draft pick Williamson 20, were selected as nominees Saturday for the league’s Most Improved Player and Rookie of the Year awards, respectively.

Ingram’s competition for the Most Improved Player trophy includes fellow nominees Miami center Bam Adebayo and Dallas guard Luka Doncic. Ingram’s case for MIP features increases in scoring average (up 5.6 points), rebounding average (1.0) and assists (1.2), despite averaging nearly exactly the same amount of minutes as he did in 2018-19 with the Lakers (33.8 then, 33.9 now). The fourth-year pro also bumped his free-throw percentage from 68 to 85 percent.

Meanwhile, Williamson is competing for Rookie of the Year against Memphis guard Ja Morant and Miami guard Kendrick Nunn. Williamson leads all qualified first-year pros in scoring average (22.4 ppg) and rebounding (6.2).

TNT will announce the award winners in six different categories during its coverage of the NBA’s season restart.