What’s the Reason for De’Aaron Fox’s Sudden Rise?

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Going into the 18/19 season the Sacramento Kings couldn’t have had lower expectations. Vegas oddsmakers set the over/under at 25.5 wins, the second-lowest mark in the league. Most people have been questioning Vlade Divac’s draft choices, saying that De’Aaron Fox can’t shoot and Marvin Bagley can’t play defense. Yet, so far they have been surprisingly average. The Kings are 9-8 on the season and lead the league in pace at 105.3 with an offensive rating of 108.7 both of which were bottom two in the league last year. The breaking out of Buddy Hield and Willie Cauley-Stein has certainly helped the team, but for the most part, their driving force has been the emergence of De’Aaron Fox.

Coming out of Kentucky the 6’3” guard was known for his speed, playmaking ability, and aggressiveness on both sides of the floor. He was selected 5th overall in the 2017 Draft and his one knock was his jump shot. Mike Schmitz had this to say about his skills, “you could argue that he truly is a jump shot away from being a legitimate #1 candidate in this year’s draft.” Even still, Fox has always seemed to have good mechanics and it just never resulted in good three-point or mid-range shooting as evidenced by his 74% at the free throw line.

Copyright 2018 NBAE (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)

In his rookie year, Fox was put on an awkward fit and downright bad team and he struggled only averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists a game. Last year the Kings ran a slow half-court offense that wasn’t what Fox was used to at Kentucky. There, Fox thrived on pushing the ball in transition and finding shooters or attacking the basket.

This year, however, the Kings have started to play to Fox’s strengths as evidenced by their league-leading pace. Often Fox will grab a miss and try and beat the opposition down the floor. He attacks the basket and will either go up or if there’s too much traffic kick it out for an easy three:

http://3ball.io/plays?evtt=1%2C2&p2id=1628368&desc=3PT&playId=0021800073_542

Fox’s playmaking and speed have always been something he has excelled at so this isn’t really that surprising. What is surprising is his success in the halfcourt. When people say a player like Ben Simmons or Giannis Antetokounmpo would be unstoppable with a three this is what they mean. Fox’s game has opened up tremendously because of his newfound ability to knock down threes. Although Fox obviously worked on his shot this summer, he credits it on his confidence. He’s shooting the ball with confidence every time; shooting the ball like every shot is going to go in.”

Fox’s speed allows him to expose holes in the defense, and his improved shooting makes his drive to the basket even more lethal. Last year if a defender saw a screen coming they could go under on Fox, but now he has to get up in Fox in case he pulls the trigger. 

If Fox can keep shooting close to the way he has, 44% from deep, he will continue this torrid pace. One can expect he will regress as the season goes on, but Fox has gone from an offensive liability last year to an offensive force this year. The same goes for the Sacramento Kings. There’s a very small chance this team finishes above .500% and still, they may shatter expectations. As long as they win 30+ games this season and see more positive growth from their young players this season will be an unmitigated success.

Header image – Mandatory Credit: Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

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