In 2016, the NBA Draft saw the Los Angeles Lakers select at #2, while the Boston Celtics followed up with the #3 selection. How does history look back at these two draft picks?
Members of the 2016 draft class will soon be in the first season of their rookie-scale extensions whenever the 2020-21 off-season begins. That specific class wasn’t altogether a good one for the Boston Celtics, but it delivered in setting the current team up with one of its core members.
At the #3 selection, the C’s selected Jaylen Brown. One pick earlier, Boston’s chief rival–the Los Angeles Lakers–went with Brandon Ingram. While LSU’s Ben Simmons was the shoe-in for the #1 pick (even though fate would have it that he missed his first year under contract), the next two picks could have gone either way.
And truly, the impact both players have had with the teams they did get selected to (and the New Orleans Pelicans this past year for Ingram) have been similar so far. Now, to be fair to both players, the 2016-17 rookie years they played were mostly spent on the bench. Their situations were different, with the Celtics being a conference finals contender and the Lakers eventually falling to the lottery again, but neither player made much of a dent.
The following year in 2017-18, both players got more of a shot in their current lineups, ascending to the starting five. Both responded with points per game bumps into the teens. More impressively, both shot above 45 percent from the field and 39 percent from the 3-point line. This season, though, saw Brown achieve playoff success that separates the pair.
Thus far, Ingram hasn’t been on a playoff contender. Even the addition of LeBron James last season couldn’t lift his Lakers to the playoffs. Meanwhile, while the Pelicans were trending upwards before the season was suspended, they were not projected to make the playoffs either.
Brown was a star in the C’s series against the Cleveland Cavaliers on a team that was missing both Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward. With all of that said, you can’t blame Ingram for the Lakers’ lack of a well-built roster compared to a combination of Danny Ainge mixing lottery picks with competitive veterans and Brad Stevens maintaining a winning culture for most of his Boston tenure.
Ultimately, both players ended up with historically great franchises. One has not adjusted since losing a franchise staple in Kobe Bryant (and truthfully, they were declining for years with him on the roster). The other was the Boston Celtics, who transitioned from the “Big 3” era to maintain success for the better part of the last decade.
Brown may be a better fit next to Jayson Tatum than Ingram would be. Then again, perhaps Ingram’s distributing abilities would be better served on a C’s roster that lacks a player who averages at least five assists per game. Ingram hasn’t reached that lofty number in his career, but hasn’t had the caliber of talent around him that Brown has.
Ultimately, though, these two players are remarkably similar. Ingram is an All-Star, while Brown is likely a year or two away from becoming one himself. Things worked out for Boston, but if the Lakers brought the University of California product home, the Celtics would have done well to have Ingram fall to them.