Comparing Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz
By Phillies Fan 1969
Two Pac-12 guards, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball, will be the top selections in this year’s NBA Draft. The question is which one of these supreme talents will make the best adjustment to the NBA and have the better overall career. Such a questoin is difficult to answer before either have set foot in an NBA practice, let alone at game, but it’s interesting to compare and take a crack at answering this.
There were numerous questions about Ball’s transition to college out of high school and for the most part answered those questions very well. In his single season at UCLA, Ball lead the nation in assists per game at 7.6 and was an excellent shooter. He drilled 55 percent from the floor, including 41 percent from beyond the arc.
The same questions about Ball’s potentital transition to college are surfacing again to the NBA.
On the positive side, he’s very tall for a point guard and could play either the guard position and possibly even a small foward. His keen basketball instincts allows him to uncannily find the open teammate in the best position for a basket.
Besides being an elite passer, Ball is an excellent shooter when he gets to his spot on the floor and also has a leaping ability to enable him to play above the rim
His size is not only an advantage offensively, but it enabled Ball to match up against a more wide range of players on the defensive end. Having said that, smaller guards at the NBA level could pose a problem defensively for Ball, due to his relative lack of quickness.
Although Ball has tremendous upside, there are undoubtedly some weaknessed that can be a concern at the next level. He’s not a tremendous ball handler and while he was a sharpshooter at UCLA, NBA defenders are increasingly better and forcing players to alter their game and shoot from not so comfortable areas on the court.
It’s difficult to predict what kind of career Ball will have before he even sets foot in an NBA practice. But certainly tools are there for him to succeed at the NBA level. At the same time, he needs to improve on his areas of weakness for that to happen. The early feel on ball is that he’ll be a solid NBA career, but perhaps wont be a superstar that one might expect as 2nd pick in the NBA draft.
Looking at Markelle Fultz, he appears to be a franchise player, one that can be an All-Star multiple times and one that a team can build around. He averaged 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game at Washington, while shooting 48 percent from the floor and 41 percent from three-point range.
Similar to Ball in size, Fultz can also defend shooting guards and some of the smaller forwards. He’ll be in a great situation in Philadelphia, in the same back court as Ben Simmons. With Joel Embiid in the middle and Robert Covington and Dario Saric all able to knock down the long range shot, that will open the floor considierably for Fultz. That will enable him to take advantage of his quickness. Fultz likes to use his quickness to penetrate and get to the rim.
One advantage for Fultz early on over Ball is that last years number one pick Ben Simmons has not played yet, so the expectations for Simmons will take some of the attention away from Fultz. It will be like having two top picks in the same season, with equal pressure on both.
The up tempo style of play the 76ers are using, although not very effective last season, fits right into Fultz’s game. Another benefit to Fultz is that the 76ers are cearly a team on the rise with numerous young players to bulild around.
Look for Fultz to start off quicker than Ball being in a better overall position for the long term. While the two may be similar in statistics early on, I expect Fultz to surpass Ball and have a longer, more successful career in terms of individual achievements and team accomplishments.