The point guard position has become vital to team success in the NBA. As the 2017 NBA Draft approaches Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball give teams the chance to acquire the superstar they need to successfully run their team. Both have generational talent which should your team select if they get the number one pick?
While it may appear that Ball’s 7.6 assists and 2.5 turnovers per game is clearly superior to Fultz’s 5.9 assists and 3.2 turnovers per game the numbers do not tell the whole story.
Lonzo Ball played with a vastly superior team this year at UCLA compared to the team that surrounded Fultz at Washington. Ball had three potential NBA players on his team, one being his backcourt partner, Bryce Alford who was a four-year starter and averaged 15.5 points per game and shot 43% from beyond the arc. The help even increased with two projected lottery picks in the frontcourt with stretch forward T.J. Leaf (16.3ppg, 61%) and athletic freak Ike Anigbogu (4.7ppg, 56%). There is no better example of the help Ball receives than these highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lgUUEa7NxMU
In comparison the second leading scorer on Washington last year was David Crisp with 13.6 points per game and 41% from the field. To stretch the floor, they relied on Matisse Thybulle, the teams third leading scorer who had 10.5 points per game and shot 40% from three, second highest on the team behind Fultz. Due to a lack of floor spacing and a dependable second scoring option the opportunity for Fultz to accumulate assists is often tougher than it is for Ball. Despite this Fultz is still able to penetrate the lane easily and pass it to teammates for open shots and easy dunks.
Advantage: Lonzo Ball. While the gap between the two isn’t as big as the numbers may make it seem Ball still has a Jason Kidd like ability to get his teammates involved.
The ability to score is yet another stat that may appear to be deceiving when it comes to the games of Ball and Fultz.
For Ball his 14.6 points per game come on only nine shots which he shoots at a great 55%. He also shoots it well from deep hitting on 41% of his three point attempts. As he enters the NBA Ball will have the opportunity for more shots and with his above average height (6-6) and ability to run the floor points in the paint and in transition will come easy. However, there may be an issue in his offense game. His shot has a major hitch in it, as he brings the shot from his left hip and across his body to shoot. This may cause issues when defenders in the NBA have the length and ability to close the space on the shooter.
Fultz showed at his only year at Washington that he will be able to handle scoring at the next level. Being primary ball handler and scoring he was forced to take on the best defenders and he was still able to score 23 points per game on 47% shooting and 41% from three-point range. Perhaps most promising was his ability to penetrate defenses and draw almost seven free throw attempts per game. You can see Fultz’s complete game in these highlights: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cA9Uw6Fhm6Y
Advantage: Markelle Fultz. A pure scorer both inside and out, he reminds me of an early version of Kyrie Irving with his crafty midrange game and ability to finish around the rim.
Rebounding is probably the closest stat line that the two players share. For Ball he averages 6 rebounds per game while Fultz grabs 5.7. Both play the point guard so while their ability to grab rebounds is not vital it still helpful.
Advantage: Lonzo Ball. He gets the slightest edge over Fultz due to the simple fact of his two-inch height advantage. Not only is Ball tall for the point guard position but the height will allow for him to switch screens on defense and get closer to the basket for rebounds in the NBA.
Yet another category where it was tough to decide between the two very talented players. Both struggled on pick and rolls in the freshman year in college, while some of it may have to do with effort, it will still need to be fixed to be successful at the next level. Both have the athleticism to be above average defenders at the next level but it will take time and a few lumps early on.
Advantage: Markelle Fultz. Where Fultz may thrive most on defense is in transition. As you can see in the highlight below his ability to steal the ball and be a one-man fast break and his ability to get chase-down blocks is truly special. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5E4kZSSMCkA
While a team may prefer the style of Fultz or Ball they must also look at some of the intangibles that they both possess. For instance, who is the better pure athlete or do they have off the court distractions?
For Lonzo the issue is his dad. While having your own brand and shoe is great, a team may worry about having a father that is vocal on anything and everything that has to do with his son. Also, while Ball is an amazing athlete there are times where you wonder if he can jump out of the gym or dominate the game as an athlete.
For Fultz, a quiet kid there are none of the same concerns. You don’t hear about his family, only his game. As for his athleticism, it appears to be ridiculous. You see the ability to slice through the pain and fining with a powerful dunk or block on the other end.
Advantage: Markelle fultz.
In the end Markelle Fultz takes the victory over Lonzo Ball. While Ball may provide upside to teams looks for a Jason Kidd like facilitator he does not have the ability to take a game over like Fultz. Markelle Fultz is perfect for teams looking for a pure scorer with amazing athleticism and the ability to pass and rebound at a high level Fultz is ready to come in and become an immediate superstar.