Lonzo Ball and De'Aaron Fox are widely regarded as the top two point guard prospects in the 2017 NBA Draft class, and they will match up on Friday night. The Sweet 16 clash between the two super freshmen, and their loaded UCLA and Kentucky teams, is the kind of heavyweight battle scouts drool over.
Ball and Fox have both been excellent so far in the NCAA Tournament. Ball is averaging 16.5 points, 6.0 assists, 5.5 rebounds, and 1.0 steals in 36 minutes per game, while only turning the ball over twice in both games combined. Meanwhile, Fox is averaging 16.5 points, 2.0 assists, 2.0 rebounds, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks in 30.5 minutes per game. So yeah, they’re both basically dominating the competition and filling up the stat sheet.
While the UCLA freshman’s dad has been making headlines off the court, he has been tearing things up on it. Meanwhile, Fox has steadily improved on both ends of the court all season, putting himself in the conversation to be a top five pick in the draft.
The two faced off in early December at Rupp Arena, with Ball and the Bruins coming out victorious, 97-92. Ball put up 14 points, six rebounds and seven assists in that game, while Fox countered with 20 points, two rebounds and nine assists. Both guys are playing better now than they were then, so Friday’s matchup should be a classic.
When they played in December, Fox’s quickness and length gave Ball some problems, but he wound up finding a way to put his team over the top and get a tough road win.
What follows is a brief scouting report on each guy and what they can do on the court:
Lonzo Ball, PG, UCLA
At 6’6″ and 195 pounds, Ball has excellent height for a point guard, but needs to add strength. He’s an incredible passer who is unselfish, sets teammates up and makes everyone around him better. His basketball IQ is off the charts, and is the rare player who can single-handedly make every player on the floor dangerous.
Ball is an excellent finisher when making plays for himself, and displays outstanding athleticism when blowing by defenders and getting to the hoop.
He can be a solid defender in UCLA’s defense-optional system, but when focuses and knuckles down, he can force stops and has the size to defend a number of positions.
While he has a wacky shooting motion that should absolutely not work, he’s hitting 42 percent from beyond the arc and has near-unlimited range. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Right now he’s in a fierce battle with Markelle Fultz to be the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft.
De’Aaron Fox, PG, Kentucky
At 6’4″ and somewhere around 175 pounds, Fox is a stringy guy who needs to add weight and strength to take the pounding of the NBA, but man is his ceiling high. He is incredibly quick and can get to the basket in no time flat. His initial burst and first-step on drives is as good as anyone in this draft class. The guy is flat-out explosive with the ball in his hands. He needs to cut down on turnovers (averaged 2.5 per game this season) but he’s an excellent ball-handler.
While he is not a good jump shooter right now (23.4 percent from 3-point range), the fundamentals of his left-handed shooting motion are solid. His release point is fine, and he gets rotation on the ball, he just needs more repetitions and practice on it.
What separates Fox from others at his position is his defense. This is a guy who could make the All-NBA Defensive Team right now. He relishes his role defensively, is aggressive and attacks ball-handlers, while also closing down quickly on shooters. When he remains disciplined he’s as good as anyone defensively in college basketball.