• In this week’s installment of Fantasy Face-off, we’ll look at a matchup of two swingmen with burgeoning NBA careers. Both Jaylen Brown and Brandon Ingram are members of the draft class of 2016 and were selected back-to-back with the second and third picks respectively. While their play styles may be different, their early-career production has been comparable and their overall fantasy value has followed suit. As one-time All-Stars, they have a high level of production which sets them apart from their peers. However, neither man is the face of their franchise, a role which both men certainly have the ability to fulfill, if not the opportunity. This matchup loses some historical significance with Ingram no longer on the Lakers, but both men are entering their primes and project to come off the board early in drafts for years to come. As draft classmates, high-scoring swingmen and some of the league’s premier talents with comparable fantasy draft positions, these two are natural opponents for this week’s fantasy battle.

     

    Brandon Ingram v. Jaylen Brown

     

    PAST: Who was the better fantasy player?

    2020-2021 Stats

    Ingram:

    23.8 PPG, 2.3 3PG, 4.9 RPG, 4.9 APG, 0.7 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.5 TOG, .466 FG%, .878 FT%

    61 games, 1,450 points, 143 3-pointers, 299 rebounds, 296 assists, 42 steals, 36 blocks,  154 turnovers, 513-of-1,101 field goals, 281-of-320 free throws

     

    Brown:

    24.7 PPG, 2.8 3PG, 6.0 RPG, 3.4 APG, 1.2 SPG, 0.6 BPG, 2.7 TOG, .484 FG%, .764 FT%

    58 games, 1,430 points, 163 3-pointers, 347 rebounds, 195 assists, 72 steals, 32 blocks, 158 turnovers, 538-of-1,111 field goals, 191-of-250 free throws

     

    Ingram entered the 2020-2021 season coming off his first All-Star appearance, while Brown had just helped carry the Celtics to the Conference Finals in the Disney bubble. From a fantasy perspective, Ingram was the clear favorite at the start of the year, and he retained that sort of upside throughout the season after posting nearly identical averages to his All-Star season. However, slight variations in his rebounds, assists and steals made Ingram surpassable by Brown in what would become the latter’s debut All-Star season. The points matchup was a wash between the two players, as one beat the other in totals or averages. However, the edge should be given to Brown in the overall judgment after he registered more treys at a higher overall completion rate than his peer, giving him a three-category edge in points, treys and field goal percentage. Where Ingram remained competitive was his playmaking, offering more than 100 extra helpers with a better assist-to-turnover ratio than the Celtics star while also generating a significant lead in both free throw makes and attempts. However, an individual advantage in turnovers did not make Ingram an asset in that category; nor did the barely-consequential blocks from either man. Fans of the game will not be surprised to know that the other defensive category, steals, was a fairly easy victory for Brown. These men were very comparable in some of their strongest categories, but Brown got the edge because he made more treys in less games while also registering more than one steal in each contest -giving him an edge in two high-impact categories- while mitigating his loss in assists with a near-equal advantage on the boards.

    Verdict: Jaylen Brown

     

    PRESENT: Who is the better fantasy player?

    2021-2022 Statistics

    Ingram:

    22.7 PPG, 1.3 3PG, 5.8 RPG, 5.6 APG, 0.6 SPG, 0.5 BPG, 2.7 TOG, .461 FG%, .826 FT%

    55 games, 1,246 points, 74 3-pointers, 320 rebounds, 307 assists, 34 steals, 26 blocks, 151 turnovers, 453-of-983 field goals, 266-of-322 free throws

     

    Brown:

    23.6 PPG, 2.5 3PG, 6.1 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.1 SPG, 0.3 BPG, 2.7 TOG, .473 FG%, .758 FT%

    66 games, 1,559 points, 166 3-pointers, 404 rebounds, 231 assists, 70 steals, 18 blocks, 178 turnovers, 576-of-1,217 field goals, 241-of-318 free throws

     

    Brown and Ingram had a bit of a backslide in this past season, with both men falling outside of the top-50 overall conversation despite their impressive counting stats. Unlike the previous season -where their totals value were comparable- Brown was miles ahead of Ingram this time around with an 11-game advantage. Ingram recovered his lost value in rebounds and increased his assist output, allowing him to essentially tie the rebound category with Brown while expanding his lead as a playmaker. Points remained mostly equal between the pair, as a one point per-game advantage for Brown amounted to a paltry four-point surplus in most weekly matchups. Brown was a negative free throw asset that was dwarfed in volume and accuracy by Ingram. Brown did mitigate the poor free throw shooting by offering double the output in treys and steals. The truth is that Brown -a player that, on average, makes 3-of-4 free throws- isn’t a lead weight and he gets a pass here despite the objective truth that he doesn’t help from the line. Outside of the categories which are clear victories for one man or the other, the victory for the past season should once again go to Brown, who has marginal edges in more categories from a per-game perspective and carried the totals matchup without question. Building on these edges, it’s important to note that Ingram missed the majority of March and wasn’t able to contribute to fantasy teams in the midst of playoffs.

    Verdict: Jaylen Brown

     

    FUTURE: Who will be the better fantasy player in 2022-23?

    Looking ahead, it’s safer to predict that history will repeat itself rather than hope for a leap in production. That’s the debate with Ingram and Brown: the former has more room for growth, but the latter seems to have established a higher floor. Brown seems destined to consistently edge or remain competitive with Ingram in categories like points, treys, steals and field goal percentage, while Ingram is clearly the better playmaker and free throw shooter. The Celtics swingman has won the recent battle of the boards, but Ingram has also cleared six rebounds per-game in his career and has the added advantage of extra height and wingspan over his rival. It’s reasonable to expect that a length advantage could translate into more boards, but Brown retains his edge over the Pelicans forward with the acknowledgement that this category could flip easily. This would be more likely to happen if Jonas Valanciunas and Zion Williamson weren’t projected to collect the majority of boards for the Pelicans next year.

    Ingram’s wingspan has not translated into increased defensive production versus Brown, despite a presumed physical advantage. The Pelicans swingman is two seasons removed from averaging solid value with one steal per-game, while that is more of a floor for Brown. Blocks are a toss-up between the two men, which represents a potential swing category for Ingram in what has generally been a disadvantageous head-to-head comparison. However, most NBA personnel would likely say that Brown is the safer pick to project defensive growth based on current reputations, so managers can likely use ink when writing his victories in both defensive categories.

    Drafting Ingram commits a manager to four main categories: points, treys, assists and free throws. Among these categories, it’s only truly clear that Ingram can give teams an extra advantage over Brown in two of these areas. Assists are one of the more difficult categories to compete in, while Ingram’s heavy dose of free throw makes can drag a team’s numbers up by overall volume. In a week-to-week comparison, managers can reasonably expect Ingram to produce about eight additional helpers per week while nearly doubling the free throw category value of Brown. In comparison, Brown would register around four extra points and treys, using last season’s averages. The black-and-white analysis is that this is an even split, but the impact of Ingram’s totals is arguably greater since it’s easier to find points and treys than high-volume playmakers and free throw shooters.

    The Celtics have just come within reach of the NBA Championship behind the strength of Brown and his more-heralded co-star, Jayson Tatum. As one of the premier duos in the league, they project as one of the surest bets for future success and have a strong track record to support this status. On the other hand, Ingram hasn’t been able to achieve the same level of notoriety with his superstar teammate, as Zion Williamson’s health has limited chances for overall team success while simultaneously reducing the amount of easy shots or assists available to Ingram. It’s important to note that Ingram’s best season came when Williamson only appeared in 24 contests, while Brown has produced relatively-consistent value playing alongside Tatum for years. A fully-realized Pelicans squad might produce more efficient shots for Ingram -which could help his field goal percentage while returning his value in treys- and allow him to get easier assists thanks to Williamson’s gravity, but managers shouldn’t put the horse before the carriage here.

    Brown has had a higher usage rate than Ingram for two consecutive seasons, while Ingram may actually be ceding usage to his superstar teammate and the recently-acquired CJ McCollum in the coming season. Brad Stevens will surely continue trying to add high-level contributors like Malcolm Brogdon around Brown and Tatum, but it’s difficult-to-impossible to imagine a future Celtics squad that features both men but doesn’t treat them as the primary options. Ingram is far too skilled to fall out of featured-player status, but his near-30 usage rate isn’t as likely to stay static as Brown’s 30-plus usage.

    Considering that Brown projects as the likelier option to produce raw stats -points, treys, rebounds and steals- Ingram’s competitiveness in the 2022-2023 season will rely on efficiency. Brown’s average 3-point makes per-game has exceeded Ingram’s career-high for the last two seasons, so it’s imperative for Ingram to connect on a higher percentage of his attempts from the field in order to keep pace. The Pelicans swingman may be able to pad an already-comfortable lead in assists as his career progresses, but an increase in playmaking responsibilities may negatively impact his turnovers advantage over Brown. Managers may be asking for too much from Ingram if they want all of this to happen in one season, especially as his growth areas are diametrically-opposed to his strengths: assists, points and treys must all rise without negatively impacting shooting percentages and turnovers. On the contrary, Brown will enter this season with a much easier task to improve his overall competitiveness: raising his free throw percentage. Given that he’s already making around three-quarters of his shots from the charity stripe, there is reason to believe that growth could happen if Brown makes this an area of focus.

    It’s hard to predict anything other than internal growth for the teams of either men moving into next season, so Brown will retain his edge for what could be the third year in a row unless Ingram makes a leap in one or more categories. There has already been some fluctuation with Ingram’s assists, rebounds and steals numbers which inspires equal parts optimism and pessimism when compared with the steadier profile of Brown. The pair of them will both score plenty of points and add solid counting stats regardless of their place in the overall picture. Aside from blocks and turnovers, they’re unlikely to drag a team down in any category. Steals may be a point of contention for Ingram critics, but he has the length and the historical ability to generate passable steal numbers from a fantasy perspective. Both players will likely be off the board by the mid-rounds of fantasy drafts, but Brown is more likely to provide a higher rate of return based on recent results. Ingram’s length and shot creation ability represents a higher potential fantasy ceiling than Brown, although the floor values of both men seems more relevant to the discussion in light of their more prominent teammates using up more possessions. With that in mind, the safety of Brown’s slightly-superior raw numbers in a more consistent environment should give him the edge on draft day. 

    Verdict: Jaylen Brown

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