The 2019-20 season hasn’t gone the way the Kings envisioned, but there is still time for the team to assess the players they have and monitor the growth of some of their young core.
One of those players is becoming what Sacramento hoped he would develop into when they selected him with the No. 5 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.
De’Aaron Fox has missed time due to injury, but since his return, we are starting to see potential turn into production. Over his last seven games, Fox is averaging 24.1 points, 8.4 assists, 5.6 rebounds, two steals and a block in 34.6 minutes.
“It’s stuff that I knew I could always do, it’s just being more consistent,” Fox said earlier this week. “Continuing to make shots, get to the basket, get to the free throw line, things of that nature. Just trying to help my team win ball games.”
This is the silver lining for the Sacramento Kings in an otherwise disappointing first half to the 2019-20 season. Fox is beginning to take another leap in his development and it’s out of necessity.
Fox looks angry on the court and he’s fed up with losing. He even picked up a technical foul in his last game out trying to plead his case with the officials.
“Occasionally it’s good to get T’d up, it’s good for your team, especially when it’s someone like De’Aaron that gets T’d up, I think it motivates the group,” coach Luke Walton said of Fox. “Occasionally we’ll take it, but it’s a fine line of playing with that passion, but also being level headed and cool so you can make the proper decisions while you’re on the floor.”
Fox is doing everything in his power to turn the Kings season around and it appears he’s stepping into the leadership role the team is desperate to fill. He’s becoming more vocal on the court and he’s demanding accountability.
There is a sense of urgency to Fox’s game. He’s using his tremendous speed and getting downhill on his opponents. He’s also saving some fuel for the fourth quarter where he’s beginning to thrive.
“The last couple of games, I’ve felt great going into fourth quarters,” Fox said. “I don’t want to say I’m easing into games, but I’ve just been able to finish games pretty well for myself.”
Unfortunately, the scoring bump late in games hasn’t equated to wins. Against Orlando, Fox scored 15 points in the final 12 minutes, including a runner with 15.8 seconds remaining where he drew a foul and gave the Kings a one-point lead.
On the final defensive possession, Fox even went to the coaching staff and demanded he guard Evan Fournier. Fox stayed in front of the Magic’s leading scorer, forcing him to make a last-second pass, which unfortunately led to an Aaron Gordon game-winning bucket.
Wednesday against the Mavericks, Fox posted six points and three assists in the final nine minutes. He helped the Kings rally from a big deficit and make it a game in the final minute.
“I just try to put my team in the best position to win and for me and for us right now, it’s been me doing a lot of scoring in the fourth quarter,” Fox said. “If that’s how it needs to be, that’s how it needs to be. With doing that, I want to be able to close games out and actually win games.”
In his third NBA season, Fox is figuring out how to pick his spots. He focuses on setting up his teammates early and getting everyone involved. When the Kings need for him to take over, he’s able to go into attack mode.
After missing 17 games with a grade 3 ankle sprain, Fox looks like he is finally 100 percent healthy. He has a spring in his step that was missing initially and he’s regained a lot of his explosiveness.
With his body right and his numbers starting to spike, you can see the confidence growing in the Kings’ point guard.
“He seems to have his legs and his wind, from the injury,” Walton said. “With that, I think he’s getting more comfortable and confident in being vocal out there, being vocal in shootaround, embracing that leader role.”
If Fox can continue to take another huge leap in his development, it could lessen the blow of what looks like another tough season in Sacramento.
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At 22-years-old, Fox is still a work in progress. He has moments where he isn’t impactful during games, but those are becoming fewer and fewer. His turnovers are up, but he’s trying to put the team on his shoulders.
The team is hoping to bounce back in the second half of the season and make a run. If that is going to happen, the Kings need Fox to continue his strong play and a few of his teammates to get on board.