NBA: Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball face pressure-filled second seasons

NBA Draft Lonzo Ball (L), Markelle Fultz (C) and De'Aaron Fox (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
NBA Draft Lonzo Ball (L), Markelle Fultz (C) and De'Aaron Fox (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

Two of the most talked about young players in the NBA, Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz look to prove the haters wrong and contribute to their ball clubs this season

The Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Lakers are two of the most talked about franchises in all of sports. Both Hollywood and the city of brotherly love have had their star players from the likes of Magic Johnson, Julius Erving, Kobe Bryant and more. Both teams would certainly love to add to this list, and when the 76ers and Lakers had the top two picks in the 2016 NBA Draft it was pretty clear who would be off the board early.

The 76ers drafted point guard Markelle Fultz with their first overall selection and the “Process” looked to be in full force. Fultz attended the University of Washington and immediately attracted eyes with his crafty ability to finish around the rim and his supreme athleticism.

On the other hand is Lonzo Ball, a player who can see the court like only few can do and seems to make everyone around him better on the court. He was the main threat of a high-flying UCLA offense and the Bruins’ record went from 15-17 to 31-5 with the addition of the former Chino Hills star. The big baller was selected one behind Fultz by the Los Angeles Lakers and the city went crazy with hopes of him becoming their centerpiece.

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Both players had their ups and downs in their rookie stints like most in their first year, but their performances left viewers wanting more. Fultz became the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple double but his jump shot wasn’t falling like it was at Washington. Ball’s statistics were actually very successful as a rookie but his percentages weren’t anywhere near where they needed to be for the Laker offense.

Unfortunately the two point guards both suffered severe injuries which caused them to miss substantial time but they look to make a bigger impact in their sophomore seasons.

Other than being eliminated by a Boston Celtics team without two of their premier all-stars in Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward, it was an extremely successful season for the young Sixers. Joel Embiid proved he can be one of the top big men in the game and Ben Simmons showed his highly anticipated playmaking skills would come as advertised.

However, with very little guard play to the Philadelphia offense Markelle Fultz seems to be the missing piece. His shot seemed to be falling with more consistency in the preseason and he looks healthy going up and down the court. Whenever you are the number one overall pick, the stakes are high and the fans can often have zero patience, but Fultz is more than capable of showcasing his skills on the big stage this season in hopes of earning a trip to the NBA Finals.

With the addition of one of the most dominating players the game has ever seen in LeBron James, the Lakers went from competing for a playoff spot to competing for the trophy. It was clear last year that Ball faced more pressure than arguably anyone we’ve ever seen in the NBA, but with all of the papers talking about the King, it seems to have created some breathing room for Ball to shine under the radar. He has already demonstrated important strengths on the court such as his playmaking, rebounding and defensive positioning.

The main concern in his rookie campaign was his jump shot, but hopes are high and general manager Magic Johnson believes fans are going to see a whole new Lonzo Ball this season, one that’s dedicated and determined.

No legend in the history of their respective sports has ever been labeled for their rookie season alone, it takes time to fully develop your craft and to be the best player one can possibly be. A rookie season is about discovering your confidence on the court and getting a feel for the type of player you might want to be.

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Fultz and Ball both showed that when they’re both healthy on the court they are valuable weapons that can certainly help a team win games. The two young guards look to polish up their games in their second years and despite the pressure, both look to bring the fans to their feet and help their team improve every night.