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More likely to have a breakout sophomore season: Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball?
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Steve Aschburner: Lonzo Ball. My hunch is based on the tutelage of LeBron James, who has plenty of incentive to invest time and energy into the Lakers’ top pick from a year ago – and who has gotten plenty of other unproven teammates to blossom (Matthew Dellavedova, Tristan Thompson). Fultz has as much or more pressure on him, to justify his No. 1 status from 2017 (and the trade with Boston), but on a team built around other young stars who won’t be mentoring him. I’m not saying Fultz can’t get back to even, but Ball has a better environment in which to thrive.
Tas Melas: Fultz, because there’s a lot more room for improvement. Outside of scoring, Ball had a productive year across the board last season. He fulfilled his promise as a passer, rebounder, and defender -- Fultz has yet to meet expectations in any one aspect of his game. What Ball provides as a player was sort of an after-thought when he was scrutinized last season -- “Is he hitting shots?” was really the only question people cared about. If you only listened to the narrative and didn’t watch him play, you wouldn’t think Ball averaged roughly seven assists, seven rebounds, two steals and a block per game. Those are gonna be hard to exceed. Any regular success from Fultz is a breakthrough.
Shaun Powell: Or you could ask: Whose jumper will be better? Because that's what it might come down to. In this case, I'll go with Markelle Fultz, whose team will ask a bit more from him mainly because, unlike Ball, he won't have LeBron James around to steal some of his role.
John Schuhmann: Lonzo Ball. Fultz has the higher ceiling and could be a better scorer than Ball, but Ball is starting from a better place and will probably contribute more to his team's success. He's already a strong rebounder and defender, and even if he's not a good shooter, he's not hesitant to shoot (which matters). Playing alongside LeBron James is another point for Ball, and we haven't seen enough from Fultz in the preseason and in Game 1 on Tuesday to be very confident in a breakthrough from the former No. 1 pick.
Sekou Smith: Lonzo Ball. He'll have the benefit of playing off of LeBron James and won't have the pressure Markelle Fultz has on him. As much as Ball has to prove on a completely revamped Lakers team, Fultz has even more to prove after his washout rookie season. There are still question marks about his game, both internally and beyond the walls of the Sixers' fortress. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons need Fultz to break out now, meanwhile Ball has a buffer now in the form of LeBron, Rajon Rondo and some of the other veterans that have been added to the roster. He'll have the freedom to carve out a very specific role on a Lakers team that will not be desperate for him to take his game to the next level right away.