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Liberty Links: The Lonzo Ball vs. Markelle Fultz rivalry has already begun

The cold war between the top guard prospects begins.

NCAA Basketball: UCLA at Washington Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

It’s not every day that a former GM / cult hero / Philadelphia icon is in the news because people want to hire him, so today’s round-up is a decidedly less Process-y affair. A budding rivalry between Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz, however, is more than enough to get the juices flowing.

To the links!

Ball Thinks He’s Better Than Fultz — ESPN LA

Markelle's a great player, but I feel I'm better than him. I think I can lead a team better than him. Obviously he's a great scorer -- he's a great player, so I'm not taking that away from him.

This is the type of confidence you’d expect from someone who is a) preparing to be drafted in the top three and b) raised by a man who claims he could beat Michael Jordan in a one-on-one game. Ball thinking he’s better than a guy whose team he beat twice head-to-head isn’t super shocking, even if lots of people (me! me!) don’t think that’s the case.

Quick aside: there’s an undercurrent of analysts touting concepts like “it factor” when making their case for Ball over Fultz. Watch these and tell me if you think they lack “it factor”:

Anyway, this would have been a pretty boring story if it was just a confident college player saying what he thinks about a rival. However, let’s look at a few recent things Fultz has liked on Twitter:

The pettiness is off the charts. I love ruthless trash talkers, but I have a deep respect for the people who collect slights (real or perceived) like they’re stocking up for a nuclear fallout shelter. Fultz doesn’t seem interested in winning the war of the words right now, but you can bet this isn’t the last we’ve heard from these guys.

Class of 2018 defined by size and athleticism — Ricky O’Donnell, SB Nation

If you want a super early look at next year’s draft class — and potential targets if the Lakers pick doesn’t convey this summer — this will help you get the basics down on guys like Michael Porter Jr., DeAndre Ayton, Mo Bamba, and a few other notable names that will play in the 2017 McDonald’s All-American Game.

De’Aaron Fox is a jump shot away — J.Z. Mazlish, SB Nation

Fox is pretty much unplayable alongside Ben Simmons, but he’s a guy Sixers fans saw a lot of as they fell in love with Malik Monk this season. I have still never seen him make a jump shot — his percentages suggest I must look away during play too much — but Fox brings almost everything else to the table. I’m pretty out on guards who can’t shoot, but if there was ever a guy to make an exception for, it’s this kid.

NBA Prospect Watch: Rodions Kurucs, Barcelona — Austin Green, Los Crossovers

Everyone knows about the big NCAA names, but Kurucs is hovering in the late-teens/early-20s range of most mock drafts. There’s not a ton of tape out available on him, and he’s a guy who could potentially slip in a class that’s deep domestically. Interesting guy worth keeping an eye on.

Are the Cavaliers still Finals contenders? — A lot of NBA writers and analysts, I guess

A quick flowchart of my thoughts on this topic:

This is a top-five worst exchange in the history of reporter-coach interactions

If I ever do something like this, please tell me to cease and desist.

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