The potential top two picks in the 2017 NBA Draft – and two of the most exciting players in the country – squared off once in their short college careers. Here’s a look back at UCLA’s 107-66 victory at Washington Basketball team in February.
Washington Basketball point guard Markelle Fultz and UCLA’s Lonzo Ball have a chance to be the first two players off the board at the upcoming NBA Draft. Conference rivals in college, the two guards played head to head in early February at Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena.
UCLA at Washington was as exciting as a 41-point blowout can be. All eyes were on the two point guards, including those of the 21 NBA scouts in attendance.
Ball got the last laugh, rolling to a decisive win and stuffing the stat sheet. He finished with 22 points on 7 of 12 shooting to go along with six rebounds, five assists, and four steals.
Though the Huskies failed to compete with the 11th ranked team in the nation, Fultz did everything he could. Playing 38 minutes, he put up 25 points on 9 of 19 shooting. He also added six rebounds, five assists, and three steals, but struggled to take care of the ball with five turnovers.
Ball teammates prevailed
Ball got plenty of help, as four Bruins scored at least 20 points. Bryce Alford sank five threes and TJ Leaf, another likely first rounder, posted a double double. UCLA relied on its typical fast style of play and forced plenty of turnovers.
Only one other Husky scored double digits–Noah Dickerson scored 10. Washington committed 20 turnovers and shot a dismal 7 for 27 from three point range.
Ball and Fultz guarded one another most of the game, but their offensive ends usually won out. The two guards went back and forth putting points on the board.
What does their future look like?
Although Fultz is widely recognized as the top player in his draft class, the discussion of Fultz vs. Ball is far from over.
As college players, they are difficult to compare. Ball played for a team loaded with first round talent, earning a three seed in the NCAA tournament and taken seriously as a national title contender. Fultz, on the other hand, played for a nine win team in the midst of rebuilding its program.
This could translate well to the NBA for Ball. Surrounded by other talent, he feels no pressure to be an elite scorer and can facilitate a productive offense. Fultz did much of his damage in isolation, taking jumpers or driving to the rack. This will be tougher against high level NBA defenders.
NBA competition stiffens
However, we have yet to see Fultz play with a team loaded with other scorers. If he is drafted by Philadelphia, he will play alongside the likes of Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. He will have the opportunity to score on his own or move the basketball and find the open man. Markelle Fultz on a talented young team will be scary.
Ball’s destination appears less certain. The Los Angeles Lakers own the second pick in the draft, and Ball has claimed he would love to stay in LA. His passing ability and vision should be able to be plugged into a fast paced offense rather easily.
However, NBA defenders will challenge Ball’s scoring ability. Experienced and athletic pro defenses may expose his bizarre jumpshot form and slimmer build.
UW made a visit to Los Angeles later in the season and faced UCLA, but Fultz was dealing with lingering knee soreness and sat out. Ball scored 19 in that contest to power UCLA to another win.