Improving De'Aaron Fox leading the way as Kings surprise rest of NBA

Improving De'Aaron Fox leading the way as Kings surprise rest of NBA

The Kings fell in love with point guard De’Aaron Fox prior to the 2017 NBA Draft. He was their target early on, and there wasn’t even a question in their mind when he fell to the fifth overall selection.

For Fox, the feeling was mutual. Sacramento was where he wanted to land. He was open about that before the draft and continues to confirm his commitment to the city and the fans to this day. 

The 20-year-old speedster has quickly made a home for himself and in Thursday's  he had a breakout moment.  

Against the Hawks, Fox became the youngest player in NBA history to post a 30-point, 15-assist, 10-rebound triple-double, and only the second player in league history (LeBron James ... twice) to post a 30-point triple-double before their 21st birthday.

Initially, it didn’t appear that Fox’s night would be that special. He had matched his career-high in assists with 10 before the half, but he had just seven points going to the break. 

In the third quarter, Fox went off, scoring 21 of his career-high 31. He went 6-for-6 in the quarter, including three 3-pointers. With the game out of hand, it looked like his night was done, but the bench unit struggled to start the fourth.

Needing just a pair of rebounds to lock in the triple-double, Fox re-entered the game and went to work. And yes, he knew his stat line when he stepped back out on the floor.

“Usually I don’t go for rebounds like that, usually I only rebound is when I see my bigs need help and most of the time I let my bigs get the rebound,” a smiling Fox told the broadcast team of Grant Napear and Doug Christie following the game. “But with that one, I was like, I’m the most athletic guy on the floor, so I’m going to go get those two.”

The word ‘identity’ has become a tagline for the young teams. A year ago, they didn’t really know how to describe the team’s brand of basketball. They do now, just nine games into the 2018-19 season.

“I think last year, the difference was we didn’t have an identity, we didn’t know how we wanted to play, we didn’t know what we wanted to do,” Fox told reporters following the win in Atlanta. “And this year, we know we’re trying to run, we’re trying to get the ball up and down the court and we’re trying to get as many possessions as possible. If that surprises you, then that’s you.”

Fox and his teammates have come out with a fire and they are running teams off the court. They entered Friday ranked fourth in points per game on the season, scoring 119.8 per contest. They also rank third in total rebounds, assists, steals and 3-point percentage.

The Kings are an offensive juggernaut early in the season, but their defense is also starting to improve. They currently rank 14th in the league in defensive rating per, which is something Fox is focused on.

“I want to make an all-defensive team and I want to lead the league in steals,” Fox said Thursday. “That’s one thing I really put on my agenda this year. I know it’s tough, I know there’s a lot of great defenders in the league, but I feel it’s something I can do.”

Against the Hawks, Fox helped hold rookie Trae Young to 14 points in 27 minutes. He also forced Young into plenty of mistakes, leading the former Oklahoma star into eight turnovers on the evening. 

It’s early, but Fox is clearly improved in his sophomore season. He’s posting 19 points, 7.8 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 32.6 minutes per game. He’s also the leader of a young Kings team that is shocking the NBA with each and every unexpected win. 

NBA rumors: Kings one of many teams showing interest in Tobias Harris


NBA rumors: Kings one of many teams showing interest in Tobias Harris

The rumor mill is churning, and it’s unlikely to stop until the first week of NBA free agency has passed. Armed with massive amounts of salary-cap space, the Kings likely will be mentioned in all kinds of potential deals.

According to The Athletic's Shams Charania, the Kings are one of the many NBA teams interested in forward Tobias Harris.

In addition to the 76ers and Clippers, “Brooklyn, Dallas, Denver, Memphis, Minnesota, New Orleans, and Sacramento are expected to also express interest,” Charania wrote Wednesday.

Harris’ name has been floated as a potential fit for a while with the Kings, although he’d come at a steep price and create an issue on the frontline.

With Harris more of a stretch four than a small forward, new Kings coach Luke Walton would have his hands full trying to fit the pieces together, especially if Harrison Barnes returns to the team.

The Kings could fit both Harris and Barnes under the cap and shift prized big man Marvin Bagley to center. With the team’s pace of play, it might work -- at least for short bursts during games.

It likely would take a max offer, which is around four years and $141 million, to obtain Harris.

The smooth shooting forward turns 27 on July 15. He averaged 20 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.8 assists per game, and shot 39.9 percent from long range during stops with the Clippers and 76ers last season.

This isn’t the first time Harris has been linked to the Kings. Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer listed the Kings as a potential landing spot for the rangy forward back in May.

[RELATED: Why Kings should call Rockets if Capela is available]

In addition to Harris, Charania added that the Kings are a potential landing spot for reserve point guard Cory Joseph.

Joseph, 27, spent the last two seasons coming off the bench for the Indiana Pacers. The eight-year veteran averaged 6.5 points, 3.9 assists and 3.4 rebounds in 25.2 minutes per game last season.

If Sacramento doesn’t pick up a $3.2 million team option on Yogi Ferrell, it might be in the market for a player to eat minutes behind starter De’Aaron Fox.

Why Kings should call Rockets if Clint Capela is available via trade


Why Kings should call Rockets if Clint Capela is available via trade

Having more than $60 million in available salary-cap space is both a blessing and a curse for the Sacramento Kings.

On the one hand, they need to spend at least $50 million to get to the NBA’s salary floor. On the other hand, they don’t want to spend, just to spend.

While the team hopes to be a player in free agency, there is a full menu of ways to improve the team. One of those options is to package a future asset and some of their coveted cap space, and trade for an established NBA player on a long-term deal.

Steven Adams was the first major center to potentially come available, but it looks like he won’t be the last. The Rockets reportedly are trying to make a play for Jimmy Butler, and they're willing to deal away a couple of their key players. 

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Wednesday that one of those players is center Clint Capela.

Capela checks all of the boxes for the Kings. At 25 years old, he fits the team’s player arc, and he is the rim-running, shot-blocking rebounder they desperately need.

He’s also locked up on a four-year, $72 million contract that is completely affordable for a player who averaged 16.6 points, 12.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game last season in Houston.

It likely would cost the Kings a top-10-protected first-round draft pick, but the team is young enough to withstand another year without a selection. Sacramento also has seven second-round selections over the next two years to sweeten a deal.

If the Kings were feeling generous, they could make a mega-deal out of the situation. They have the available cap space to absorb Capela ($16.4 million), Eric Gordon ($14 million) and P.J. Tucker ($8.3 million), freeing up just under $40 million for the Rockets.

In a scenario like this, the Kings still would have more than $20 million per year to pay Harrison Barnes. They also could clear $22 million off the books next season when Gordon and Tucker expire and Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic come up for extensions.

Whether or not the Kings have held discussions with the Rockets is unknown at this time, but Sacramento needs to be aggressive in all facets of the summer schedule. The team knows Willie Cauley-Stein wants out, and there are options to replace him on the market.

But very few offer the contract, numbers and age fit that Capela does.

[RELATED: Kings' 10 options to fill small forward opening in free agency]

Kings general manager Vlade Divac selected three players in the second round, but the likelihood of any of them making an impact this season is minimal. If the Kings are going to compete for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, they have to take risks in free agency and on the trade front.

A deal for Capela would add another impact player to the foundation of the team. It would come with future costs, but it’s hard to imagine finding a better fit than the 6-foot-10 center.