Fultz and Ball have different skill sets
The contrast in shooting from the two is fascinating. From a numbers perspective, they seem similar. Ball is shooting 43 percent on 135 attempts while Fultz is at 42.1 percent on 114 attempts. However, the types of threes they hit could not be more different.
Fultz excels at making shots with a defender right in his face, like the ones above, due to his high release point and excellent elevation. Ball is the opposite. His unconventional release means he needs plenty of space to get his shot off. Fortunately, he has more than enough range to compensate.
However, Ball has other advantages on Fultz that he put on full display in their matchup. Fultz is a creative and instinctual player, but he is not necessarily a super high IQ point guard. He takes a plethora of deep mid range shots, and he loves to pull up right after he comes off screens. Ball is simply one of the smartest players college basketball has ever seen.
Ball used his cheap baseketball jerseys
knowledge of Fultz’s tendencies to get the best of him on a few occasions. Here, Ball is aided by the way UCLA is able to help onto Fultz, but he also does a great job of diagnosing what Fultz is about to do and committing to stop it.
Little plays like these are what add up to Ball having an impact on the game beyond his simple scoring, or even passing numbers.
While it might make some sense to call Ball a “winner,” it is a false narrative to say Fultz is a loser. Opposing defenses are able to focus so much attention on him, and his team just does not play enough defense to make up for what is largely a one man show on the offensive end. That being said, Fultz is not entirely excused from being part of the problem defensively.
Neither player is perfect
His effort level on defense often seems questionable, as he gets beat on closeouts and doesn’t consistently stay in a stance. Plays like this where he loses track of a basic zone assignment are real issues.
It is understandable that Fultz might not be super motivated on the defensive end. After all, even if he gave the defensive performance of a lifetime the Huskies weren’t coming close to winning this game. He does a good job of creating defensive events with his length and instincts. Because his tools are so good, it would be nice to see him more consistently make plays on the defensive end.
Ball’s flaws are harder to pick up on in a matchup against a team like Washington. Since UCLA has such a comfortable talent advantage, he is able to pick his spots and stick to what he’s good at shooting and distributing. However, in watching the type of things Fultz can do with the ball, it becomes more obvious where Ball is limited. He almost never gets in the lane and finishes like Fultz, and he certainly never makes or takes the type of contested pull ups Fultz hits at startling efficiency.
Washington and UCLA meet next on March 1 at UCLA. I have zero expectation that Washington will even make the game competitive, but I will be watching closely to see how Fultz and Ball square off in round two.
If Fultz can pick up his defensive effort and prevent Ball from outsmarting him on defense, it will say a lot about his NBA future. Likewise, if Ball continues to put his smarts to use on the defensive end along with his shooting and passing, it might be time to re consider who should go No. 1 in June.