The NBA draft is over four months away, and scouts are torn over who will be the #1 overall pick. In a point guard class that has the potential to be one of the best in years, two players are said to be head and shoulders above the rest: Washington’s Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. Despite playing the same position, the two playmakers couldn’t be any more different.
Ball is the more recognisable player due to his family’s exposure to the basketball world. He and his two brothers, LiAngelo and LaMelo, are on track to become the future of not only UCLA basketball, but the NBA. Lonzo is the more appealing playmaker due to his ability to move the rock and set high-percentage shots for his teammates. Despite Fultz being ranked the top prospect for most of the college basketball season, Ball has managed to close the gap with his ability to win, make plays in clutch situations and his intangibles. Ball’s leadership is also considered a strength, an example being when he led UCLA from a double-digit deficit to defeat Oregon. For NBA teams looking for a leader and franchise player, Ball seems to be the intriguing pick. However, one knock on Ball is his lack of scoring ability, which just happens to be Fultz’s best attribute.
Fultz has always been the projected #1 pick on most people’s mock drafts and his play for a struggling Washington side has shown why. Fultz currently averages 23.2 points, which is fourth in the nation (first among freshmen). He’s scored at least thirty points on five occasions this season and is shooting at an efficient 47.9% from the floor and 42.1% from three. The Washington star has shown advanced shot-creating, and shot-making skills from anywhere on the floor. He equips a nifty handle and tricky hesitation moves.
According to Hoop-Math.com, Fultz has made 82 two-point jumpers, compared to Ball’s five. Yes, five. Ball’s scoring comes strictly from shooting at the rim or his unorthodox, but reliable three-point shot. Ninety-three percent of Ball’s attempts comes from these spots, which is considered to be the sweet spots in modern day basketball. Lonzo’s long-range shooting has excelled this season, averaging 2.4 threes per game on 43% shooting from downtown. However, although Ball is considered to be the elite distributor, Fultz actually has a better assist percentage than Ball – 35.1% to 30.8%.
Fultz and Ball have played each other once this season and even though the Bruins came out on top 107-66, both guards put on strong performances (Fultz had 25 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists, while Ball had 22 points, 6 rebounds and 5 assists) which is sure to divide more scouts across the nation as we inch closer to draft day.
So who should be the #1 pick?
Fultz has the upper hand with his high-level scoring ability, athleticism and versatility. He’s on track to become the only player in 25 years to average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists on 40% shooting from three. It also helps Fultz’s case that with scoring point guards like Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry and James Harden taking over the league, his style of play would be perfect for today’s game. A team like the Dallas Mavericks or Boston Celtics would be a nice fit for him. On the other hand, Lonzo Ball is not your traditional point guard. Take away his scoring woes, and he’s actually quite similar to Fultz in terms of firepower and offensive skills. His leadership is sure to attract teams and franchises like the Phoenix Suns and Los Angeles Lakers, who lack facilitators, are sure to consider Ball as an option.
Anything is possible over the next few months, but it’s clear that these two star point guards are two of the best this draft class has to offer.