CAMDEN, N.J. -- Try to forget all the rumors and speculation. Imagine the Sixers are on the clock with the third overall pick in Thursday's NBA draft. Assume Markelle Fultz is off the board, Boston-bound after the Celtics took him with No. 1.
In this scenario, De’Aaron Fox’s workout with the Sixers Saturday mattered. He’s a viable option at No. 3. Some argue he’s the right option. And no matter what’s going on between front offices, he was here, blocking out the noise, to show his worth.
“I've seen stuff, but at the end of the day, it doesn't matter,” Fox said of where he might be selected. “Wherever I'm drafted, I'm going to go there and give my best effort.”
The next question pressed the issue. Fox kept his composure and reiterated. He seems to be ready for whatever happens.
“Some people go somewhere they don't want to go and they wreck havoc,” he said. “For me, I'm coming in, I'm young, I don't have much of a say. I'm going wherever I go. Trust me, you'll see me give my best effort.”
Fox’s head is level. He’s been all over the country working out for potential landing spots. Despite the projections and the talk, he still has something to prove. He wants people to know he is the best guard in this class.
“Everyone has critics. You could be the best player in the world. I mean, LeBron (James) has critics,” Fox said. “Just showing people, prove people wrong. I can't really do that until I'm drafted and get in the NBA. I'm just working, getting better and perfecting my craft.”
His craft attracts a lot of eyes. Fox is expected to be a top-five pick. In one season at Kentucky, playing alongside fellow top prospect Malik Monk, he posted 16.7 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists per game. He dropped 37 against UCLA in the Sweet 16, all while shutting down Lonzo Ball.
But his game has a noticeable flaw: His jump shot. That showed Friday in the portion of Fox’s individual workout available to the media. Fox received passes at spots around the arch and took uncontested shots. The quantity of the misses was more memorable than any makes.
In answering questions afterward, Fox didn’t dance around his poor shooting numbers at Kentucky. He said he shot well in high school and, for some reason, struggled in college. But his stats came along at the season’s end. After not shooting higher than 25 percent from three in any month during the season, he converted on 43 percent of those attempts in March.
“I didn't really worry too much about it because I was getting to the rim whenever I wanted,” Fox said. “I was making free throws. So that aspect of my game, it came. I went along with it.”
This all is not to say he didn’t look good. Everyone knew his jump shot is not the focal point of his abilities, and he said he’s working to improve it. He worked over screens in a defensive drill and threw down some dunks on a fast break workout. He tossed aside the fact that this workout, most likely, was for nothing and came out and put in effort. And he was gracious when speaking with reporters, probably knowing just as well as they do who was coming in a few hours later.
He even entertained the thought of what it would look like if he did somehow end up here. Because even though he played as a ball-dominant point guard at Kentucky, one would have to assume Fox wouldn’t be used in the same capacity here; Ben Simmons is, for now, the Sixers’ point guard. That wouldn’t be a problem for Fox.
“I can work without the ball. I did it in high school,” Fox said. “Actually, one thing people don't know is — you might take this the wrong way — but me and Ben were actually on teams at LeBron camp. It was like my sophomore year, his junior year. So I’ve played with him before.”
So a reunion doesn’t sound too bad. Especially with Joel Embiid joining the fun.
“It's definitely intriguing,” Fox said. “Joel has such a big personality, they’re both great players. Being able to play with those two is kind of like — you see people building through the draft and I feel like I'll be able to complement them well. They're gonna be two great young players in the league.”
But for now, and maybe forever, that’s all it is — intrigue.