There are two freshman point guards out west right now that have solidified themselves as the two best draft prospects and it doesn’t seem like there is another player who is even that close to the duo.
The Boston Celtics are in a rare position right now because they get to think about fighting for playoff seeding and still dream about getting the top pick in the lottery because they own pick swap rights with the Brooklyn Nets, who seem destined to post the worst record in the NBA this year. Through a few Boston wins and some Nets losses earlier in the week, it became mathematically impossible for Brooklyn to pass the Celtics and to celebrate we’ll dive into these two freshman studs.
Pros: Ball is the floor general for a historically dominant UCLA offense. There hasn’t been a Division I team to average over 90 points per game since VMI during the 2008-09 season and now the Bruins are averaging a nation best 91.6 points per game thanks to their freshman point guard. His 7.6 APG mark is second in the country right now and he turns everybody on the floor into a major scoring threat, including himself. The freshman is averaging 15.4 PPG with a 55.1% mark from the field and a strong 43.2% mark from beyond the arc. He’s got great height for a point guard at 6’6″ and his 6’7″ wingspan is an asset for him as well.
Cons: Physical strength will be a major concern for Ball when he first gets to the NBA. He might be 6’6″ but his listed weight of 190 lbs. puts him only five pounds above what the 5’9″ Isaiah Thomas is listed at, making it clear he’s need to beef up his lanky frame a bit. Players at the NBA level are going to blow right through him and it’s likely that Ball will struggle to adapt on the defensive end for the first few years of his career until he has a more NBA body. Ball also has some bad habits that smarter players at the professional level may be able to exploit, such as holding the ball exposed and close to his face when looking to pass. He also shoots below 70% from the free throw line, which isn’t ideal but it’s probably something you can live with in the end from a guy shooting over 50% from the field and 40% from three.
Pros: What can’t this guy do? He’s the only player in the Pac-12 averaging over 20 points per game and he is comfortably over that mark with an average of 23.2 PPG. Fultz is putting up these prolific scoring numbers with strong efficient shooting numbers on top of it all, shooting 47.9% from the field and 42.1% from three. The freshman point guard is also second in the conference in assists (6.0 per game) and fourth in steals (1.6 per game). Fultz is listed at 6’4″ and has great size for the position just like Ball.
Cons: Remember last year when people tired to knock Ben Simmons because he wasn’t good enough to carry his team to the NCAA tournament? At least Simmons kept LSU on the bubble for most of the season. Washington is currently 9-16 with a 2-11 mark in Pac-12 play. It will be something that people knock on Fultz for heading towards the draft, but it’s really not fair to him just as it wasn’t fair to Simmons last spring. Longtime head coach Lorenzo Romar has taken the Huskies to three Sweet Sixteens over his tenure but it appears that he’s lost his touch a bit and this is shaping up to be the sixth straight year that they miss the big dance as the program has been heading in this direction for a while. Like Ball, he also shoots below 70% from the three throw line but he also shoots over 50% from the field and 40% from downtown so it’s probably not the biggest deal.