Fultz, Ball set to write new chapter in historic rivalry

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Imagine two college basketball players, both of whom are the cream of the crop heading into the upcoming draft and equally deserving of the No. 1 selection.

Take it one step further and imagine that both of these young men not only play the same position with a combination of flash and fire sure to attract gasps of astonishment but these potential future faces of the league also played in the same conference.

This familiarity with one another transformed a minor rivalry into a full-blown battle for prospect supremacy. Months upon months of analysis, commentary and critique from basketball fans and pundits alike has set the stage for the NCAA’s latest batch of basketball gems to headline the upcoming 2017-18 season.

The cherry on top? Both of these hoopers have the ability to transcend their college bickering and reinvigorate the NBA’s most storied rivalry while gunning for the pride associated with being the Rookie of the Year.

In the upcoming NBA draft, the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers will have the No. 1 and No. 2 selections in what has the potential to become the best draft since 2003’s LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Carmelo Anthony trifecta.

Barring a drastic change between now and late June, Markelle Fultz will become a Celtic and Lonzo Ball will become a Laker.

The NBA is salivating at the idea of Fultz and Ball joining the former east- and west-coast basketball powerhouses, so much so that many have raised an eyebrow as to how these two picks managed to fall into the laps of Boston and Los Angeles’s front offices, but that’s besides the point.

According to experts, this year’s draft has the potential to yield as many as eight potential future All-Stars. This last season of college basketball has seen many prospects live up to their pre-draft hype with dazzling offensive performances on the grand stage, but Fultz and Ball have consistently stolen the show despite their teams being on the opposite ends of the college basketball spectrum.

Fultz single-handedly dragged a weak Washington Huskies team into national relevance while solidifying his status as the consensus No. 1 pick by filling up the stat sheet night after night. In his one season with the Huskies, the point guard put up 23.2 points, 5.7 rebounds and 5.9 assists with a PER of 28.3.

Every aspect of Fultz’s game, from his overall offensive versatility to playmaking ability to the defensive potential which comes with his freakishly long wingspan, screams future star. What better place to shine than The Garden in Boston with the best young coach in the league managing one of the league’s youngest cores?

On the other side of the country, Ball and the Lakers have seemed destined for one another since the point guard was bulldozing teams with his brothers at Chino Hills. Putting up 14.6 points, 6.0 rebounds and 7.6 assists in his sole season at UCLA, Ball’s NBA Street-esque playmaking coupled with his pure willingness to pull up from anywhere once he crosses the half court line is perfect for the glamour of Hollywood.

Fultz and Ball don’t only have all the tools to usher in the latest chapter in the Celtics-Lakers rivalry; they’ll also take a competition-driven rivalry into the league. Ball unsurprisingly claimed he was the superior prospect and Fultz responded with a series of subliminal disses on Twitter as Ball struggled in an 86-75 loss to Kentucky in March Madness.

The NBA has yielded a surplus of superstar talent in the past couple of seasons from Karl-Anthony Towns to Kristaps Porzingis to Joel Embiid, and Fultz and Ball have the potential to serve as heirs to the throne while etching their name in a rivalry that has yielded basketball’s household names.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]