If we’ve learned anything from watching multiple dictators try and fail to invade Russia in the middle of winter, it’s that history often repeats itself.
NBA basketball isn’t immune to this principle. Take a gander through the league’s history, and you will see that there are certain trends that continue to reoccur over and over again. And one of those patterns is the tendency for at least one rookie every season to play a role on a deep playoff team.
Last season, that fellow was none other than Denver Nuggets 2022 first-round draft pick Christian Braun. And the more I think about it, the more I see some similarities between Braun and the New Orleans Pelicans 2023 first-round pick Jordan Hawkins.
I alluded to some of these similarities in a recent tweet (I refuse to call them anything else), but I’ll expand on the commonalities a little further here.
First, both players are listed as shooting guards on basketball reference. Now, I will admit that Braun is a bigger body and more filled out. But they still play the same position.
Second, both players won the National Championship in their last seasons in college. Braun was a part of the Kansas Jayhawks team that won it all in 2022, and Hawkins won it all in 2023 with the UConn Huskies. Both of these guys are battle-tested and know what it takes to win in high-leverage games.
Third, neither one of these guys were one-and-dones. Both of them spent multiple seasons in college, which means they were/will be less raw than many of their peers. In Hawkins’ case, this increases the likelihood that he’ll be able to positively contribute to his team right out of the gate.
Fourth, both of these guys play on talented teams (that have question marks because of injuries). This matters because that decreases the load each one was/will be asked to carry on day one. In Denver, Braun was able to focus on being a lockdown perimeter defender and playing off of Nikola Jokic and Jamal Murray on offense.
Meanwhile, Hawkins is inheriting a team that already has enough on-ball creation between Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram, and CJ McCollum. This will enable Hawkins to focus on his shooting and spacing (and learning to stay afloat on defense at the NBA level).
While he struggled at times during the season and in the playoffs, when it mattered most, Braun was able to rise to the occasion and be a real rotation player for Denver during their championship run. And who knows, maybe this time, history repeats itself in the form of Hawkins with the Pelicans.