With the No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers selected Ben Simmons out of LSU.
While the 76ers would have to wait a year for Simmons to make his NBA debut, the Australian wasted no time proving himself as the No. 1 prospect in his draft class. He was named the Eastern Conference's Rookie of the Month for all but one month in the 2017-18 season, culminating in him taking home the Rookie of the Year award.
Much has changed since then, however.
Simmons is still one of the best prospects in the league, but comparisons to Kevin Durant aren't looking as outrageous as they once did for Brandon Ingram, who was selected one pick after Simmons in 2016. There's also Pascal Siakam, who the Toronto Raptors selected far later in the draft with the 27th overall pick. While Siakam didn't enter the NBA with nearly as much attention as Simmons and Ingram, he's making a name for himself this season as one of the best players in the entire league.
With all that in mind, who would be the No. 1 pick in a redraft today?
The case for Pascal Siakam
Siakam might be the oldest of the three, but neither Simmons nor Ingram have improved nearly as much as he has since being drafted.
Put it this way: Siakam went from playing primarily in the then D-League as a rookie to being a key part of Toronto's bench mob that made the Raptors so successful in his sophomore season. He was then the second or third-best player on the Raptors team that won the title, only to now be a clear No. 1 option on a team that is once again near the top of the Eastern Conference despite losing arguably the best player in the league in Kawhi Leonard to free agency.
To do that, Siakam has had to completely change his game. Whereas he was primarily a spot-up shooter three years ago, he now has the ball in his hands as much as DeMar DeRozan, Bradley Beal and even Leonard, to name a few, with a large chunk of his offence coming in isolation and pick-and-rolls. (More on that here, if you're interested).
As a result, the Raptors have been a completely different team without Siakam this season. According to NBA.com, Toronto's offensive rating is 15.3 points per possessions higher with him in the lineup.
Beyond making him a candidate for the Most Improved Player award again, as well as a lock to be named an All-Star for the first time in his career, the jump he has made this season has turned Siakam into an MVP candidate. Will he actually win the award? Probably not. But he's reaching a level this season that we haven't yet seen from Simmons and Ingram.
Again, Siakam is two years older than Simmons and close to three years older than Ingram, so there's a chance they'll be doing the same things that Siakam is this season when they're 25. I just haven't seen enough from either of them yet to believe they will, though that applies more to Simmons than Ingram. Whereas Simmons has stagnated since winning Rookie of the Year - much of which probably has to do with the situation he's in, but still - Ingram has made noticeable strides this season, to the point where he's one of the league's leading scorers.
Even so, Siakam has proven that he can play whatever role the team needs and adds something new to his game every single season. For that reason, I wouldn't hesitate to take him with the No. 1 pick in a redraft.
- Scott Rafferty (@crabdribbles)
The case for Ben Simmons
Most draft selections are based on potential and less about what you can do right now, which is why I'm sticking with Ben Simmons as the top pick here.
Siakam and Ingram have both developed into good players, but I don't think we've even scratched the surface of what Simmons can do. Simmons has league MVP potential - something I don't think the other two in this debate have. Despite his inability to shoot, he still can defend, facilitate and rebound at a high level.
This season, Simmons has seemingly taken a step back and while some of the blame should be on him, I don't think his head coach Brett Brown has put him in enough situations to be successful. The best Simmons has looked was towards the back end of his rookie year when the 76ers reeled off 16 straight wins to close the season. He averaged 14.0 points, 10.4 assists and 9.8 rebounds per game on 59.1% shooting from the field.
Philly was forced to play faster as Joel Embiid was out of the lineup with an injury and it resulted in Simmons being able to get easier looks than he would have in the halfcourt. We haven't seen Philly play like that since.
I admit I'm less concerned about his lack of shooting than most are. I think it's a flaw, no doubt, but not as big as most make it out to be. Besides, he's in his third NBA season at just 23-years-old. There's still a chance he can develop.
I'll take my chances with the higher ceiling guy.
- Carlan Gay (@TheCarlanGay)
The case for Brandon Ingram
Let's start out with a quick game.
It's very simple. Player A is on top, Player B is on bottom. Which would you rather have?
More on that in a moment but first...
Ben Simmons has been the best of the three so far in their careers.
Pascal Siakam has been the best of the three this season.
Brandon Ingram has a chance to be the best of the three when it's all said and done.
Not only is Ingram the youngest of the three - he just turned 22 in September - he also has by far the most potential as a scorer. There's no debate that Simmons has regressed as a scorer and while Siakam continues to evolve in every facet, Ingram's production is starting to catch up with his natural instincts as a scorer.
He's comfortable creating his own against all types of defenders, has increased his free throw attempts per game every year of his career and has blossomed as an off-the-ball 3-point shooter this season in New Orleans, shooting 46% on nearly five catch-and-shoot 3-point attempts per game. It's an element that was largely non-existent during his first three years as a member of the Lakers and one that will prove vitally important moving forward with the Pelicans playing off of Zion Williamson.
|Season||3-PT FG||3-PT FGA||3-PT%|
At the time of the 2016 draft, the most optimistic projection of Ingram was a spindly forward in the mould of Kevin Durant who could potentially someday lead the league in scoring. And while the knee-jerk reaction might be to scoff at Ingram ever reaching Durant levels of production, he's not that far off of where Durant was at the same age.
That poll from above?
- Player A was Durant in 2010-11 as a 22-year-old.
- Player B is Ingram so far this season as a 22-year-old.
The biggest difference and one that admittedly can't be ignored is that Durant did it for a 55-win Thunder team that reached the Conference Finals while Ingram's team is likely headed towards the lottery. Ingram's ability has yet to translate to team success, which is vitally important context and shouldn't be forgotten. The keyword there? YET.
If you're starting a team today and can take the pick of the litter from the 2016 draft knowing what we do at this very moment, give me the do-everything scorer that's shown Durant-like ability.
- Micah Adams (@MicahAdams13)
The views expressed here do not necessarily represent those of the NBA or its clubs.