De'Aaron Fox

With Markelle Fultz en route to Philly, De'Aaron Fox works out for Sixers

With Markelle Fultz en route to Philly, De'Aaron Fox works out for Sixers

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. 

Sixers, De'Aaron Fox to have individual workout Saturday

Sixers, De'Aaron Fox to have individual workout Saturday

The Sixers will hold an individual workout for De'Aaron Fox on Saturday, hosting the possible fit for the No. 3 pick less than one week before the draft.

The standout Kentucky point guard met with the Sixers during the combine in May. He is confident he can play off the ball to complement Ben Simmons in the backcourt.

"They asked me about it, Ben being able to bring the ball up the court and being a facilitator," Fox said in May. "I feel like I'm shooting it a lot better. Once I'm getting back to how I shot it in high school, I feel like I could really fit with Ben. He's fast. I feel like the position he plays, not many people can grab a rebound and push it with the speed and vision that he has.

"I am comfortable moving off the ball, but I have to show people that I can do it. No one really thinks I can do it because I struggled shooting it in college. I started shooting it well at the end of the year and I feel like if I'm knocking down shots, I'm very comfortable off the ball."

Fox averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds at Kentucky. He shot 47.8 percent from the field.

"De'Aaron's so quick, he's so agile," Fox's college teammate Isaac Humphries said at a Sixers workout on Friday. "He controls the floor so well. He can jump, he's athletic, he's a great leader. I loved playing with him just because of how he can shoot the ball and create for his team."

The Sixers also worked out Kentucky sharpshooter Malik Monk on Thursday.

The team will hold a group workout with SMU guard Sterling Brown, Baskonka center Ilimane Diop, Maryland center Damonte Dodd, Mega Leks center Alpha Kaba, Vanderbilt forward Luke Kornet, and Iowa State guard Naz Long on Saturday before Fox.

Kentucky teammate expects special things from De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk in NBA

Kentucky teammate expects special things from De'Aaron Fox, Malik Monk in NBA

CAMDEN, N.J. — The NBA world will get to know De’Aaron Fox and Malik Monk next season.

Isaac Humphries got to do that last season at Kentucky. The big man worked out for the Sixers on Friday, the day after Monk and the day before Fox is expected to come to town.

There is a chance Monk or Fox could end up on the Sixers with the No. 3 pick or through a draft night move. Wherever they land, Humphries sees both making an immediate difference on their new team.

“They’re incredible players,” Humphries said. “They’re really good people.”

Humphries was a sophomore when Fox and Monk entered the program last season. He was impressed by how quickly the two freshmen made an impact. They were the Wildcats’ top two scorers (Monk 19.8 points per game, Fox 16.7). Monk led the team in three-point shooting (39.7 percent) and Fox ranked first in assists (4.6).

“De’Aaron’s so quick, he’s so agile,” Humphries said. “He controls the floor so well. He can jump, he’s athletic, he’s a great leader. I loved played with him just because of how he can shoot the ball and creating for his team.

“Malik’s obviously such an impressive player, the way he shoots and the way he kind of controls games and kind of takes it all on his own hands. He’s one of those players that just takes over. He’s a real asset to any team.”

After one year in college, the pair of 19-year-old guards are poised to become top-10 draft picks next week. Humphries has seen firsthand their development in only one season.

“Something that kind of is crazy to see at Kentucky, especially being on the inside, is seeing the pure development of the young guys,” Humphries said. “They come in AAU’s top players and they leave kind of seasoned pros. It’s really cool to see the transition and how [head coach John Calipari] develops and breaks them down and gets rid of their bad habits and focuses on their little habits to perfect. Both of them had such growth.”

In addition to basketball talent, NBA organizations consider prospects’ character when making a decision. The Sixers go through several interviews with players at various points throughout the draft process. Humphries believes Fox and Monk have personalities that will positively influence the culture of a team.

“They both just love it so much and it’s really infectious,” he said. “I know for me, I’m always seen as the very serious type. It’s really cool to come into the locker room and joke around. It lifts a little bit of pressure because you’re all so comfortable.”

The Sixers have also worked out former Wildcats Isaiah Briscoe and Dominique Hawkins over the last two weeks. Fox and Monk are projected to become the new faces of Kentucky basketball in the NBA.

“Like every Kentucky pro athlete, they’re going to be special,” Humphries said. “Those two especially.”