The Steady Progression Of De’Aaron Fox
Sacramento’s franchise guard has turned the corner this season and solidified himself a star NBA guard
It was almost like a warning.
De’Aaron Fox gave his first hint of what was to come on July 31, 2020 in a game against the San Antonio Spurs during NBA Bubble play.
With Sacramento needing most of its remaining eight-game slate for a chance at the NBA Playoffs, Fox put on a performance that was stunning to Kings fans that had watched the young guard over the first three seasons of his career.
Fox set fire to the Spurs defense, scoring a then-career-high 39 points on 17-of-33 shooting from the field.
The offensive aggression wasn’t entirely foreign to Fox’s game, with the floor general posting 21.1 points per game during the 2019-20 season.
But this was a different type of aggressiveness on offense.
Fox went into take-over mode, doing everything he could to will his team to an important win. 39 points, six assists and a steal wouldn’t be enough for the Kings, who would falter down the stretch and miss the postseason for the 14th consecutive season.
But the outburst from Fox on July 31st left Kings fans wanting more.
Where did this come from? Can Fox become this type of player every single night?
After 24 games this season, the answer to that question is a resounding yes.
De’Aaron Fox has developed into an All-Star talent, opening up the 2020-21 season with 23.4 points, 6.7 assist and 1.2 steals per game averages. Even more impressive is the fact the he is doing it on 47-percent shooting from the field and 35-percent from the three-point line–a significant improvement from his 29-percent mark one season ago.
Over his first three seasons in the league, Fox topped the 30-point mark 10 times over 205 games.
In 24 games this season, he has scored 30-points or more five times.
Included in those five games with 30 or more, is January 17th’s explosion against the New Orleans Pelicans, with Fox posting a titanic statline that would prove as the beginning to a memorable run by the 23-year-old.
Fox scored a career-high 43 points on 17 of 27 shooting from the field and dished out 13 assists to go along with four steals.
Since scoring 43 points against New Orleans, Fox hold’s averages of 27.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 7.9 assists per game on 48-percent shooting from the field and 36-percent from three-point range.
In those games, Sacramento has posted a 7-3 record while pulling themselves back to the .500 mark and into the thick of the Western Conference Playoff race.
Fox has come a long way since the early days of his NBA career, only averaging 11.6 points and 4.4 assists during his rookie season.
During his rookie season, Fox showed that his greatest tool is his speed, something that still holds true today.
What makes the former Kentucky Wildcat so dangerous is his ability to go full-court in seemingly a microsecond, slicing and dicing his way to the rim with ease.
During his rookie season, Fox wasn’t using his speed to his advantage as much as he should have, only getting to the free-throw line 2.7 times per game. In year two, the aggressiveness increased and he saw 5.1 free-throws per contest.
Fast forward to this season, Fox is currently a top-ten player in getting to the charity stripe, attempting an NBA ninth-most 158 free-throw attempts as of February 11, 2021.
While Fox has been getting to the line more than superstars such as LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden, one thing he must improve on is converting those attempts.
Over those 158 free-throw attempts, Fox has made 108 (68%). The young guard knows that he needs to be a threat at the line, telling Zach Lowe of ESPN this week that it’s a priority of his to improve at the line.
Being able to sink even 78-80 percent of his free-throws alone could push Fox towards averaging anywhere in the upwards of 27-30 points per game. He is that close to becoming a player that can make a push for a scoring title.
We all know that De’Aaron Fox has out-of-this-world athleticism and speed, but as stated in the free-throw discussion, the young guard must be able to shoot the rock in order to take his game to the next level.
This season, he has done just that.
Another obvious big improvement this season is Fox’s ability to knock down shots, with his step-back and mid-range game improving in 2020-21. Last season, Fox was shooting 39-percent on 10-to-16 foot field goal attempts.
This season? 51-percent.
One narrative that hung over Fox like a dark cloud over the first three years of his career was that the speedster was not able to shoot the basketball.
Along with his mid-range, Fox has also significantly improved his three-point shooting ability.
Over the first three seasons of his career, Fox shot 32-percent from downtown on 570 attempts. His worst season was just one year ago, where he converted a career-low 29-percent of his three-point attempts.
This season, Fox has looked extremely confident in shooting the basketball, even showing development of a step-back skillset that was unseen until this season. Over 129 attempts, Fox has knocked down 46 triples, good enough for just under 36-percent over 24 games.
In today’s NBA, three-point shooting reigns supreme.
After three seasons of inconsistent shooting, Fox seems to have found his footing in being an NBA point guard that can knock down shots. The improvements have shown up not only in his statline, but in the win column for a Sacramento Kings team that is seemingly on the rise.
Fox has reinvigorated a young Kings team that has also benefited from solid play out of center Richaun Holmes, veteran forward Harrison Barnes and rookie standout Tyrese Haliburton.
With Fox playing like a superstar and the supporting cast taking large strides of their own, you have to wonder if this team has what it takes to end a 15-year playoff drought.
If one thing is for certain, it’s this:
I wouldn’t count on De’Aaron Fox standing by and watching his team fail. The drive is there. The confidence is there. The skill is there.
The star guard that Kings fans have been wanting, hoping, waiting for since draft night in 2017 has arrived.