You can hope that young players will take a leap forward in their production, but you can’t count on it.
De’Aaron Fox looked like a completely different player in his sophomore season. Taken with the Nol. 5 overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft, Fox’s talent has never been in question. The only real quandary was how long it was going to take for him to reach his potential.
If the 2018-19 season was any barometer, the answer is pretty clear. Fox is a player on the rise. If he takes another jump forward as he did in year two, the Kings have a star on their hands.
Stats: 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, 1.6 steals, 45.8% FG, 37.1% 3pt, 31.4 minutes
Fox took an incredible step forward as a floor general in his second professional season. With the Kings offense built around the 21-year-old point guard, a tremendous amount of pressure was put on his to push the tempo.
Sacramento ranked 30th in the league in pace during the 2017-18 season. After leading the NBA for much of the season, the Kings finished the 2018-19 season ranked fifth in pace. It’s not often you see a team increase their number of possessions per 48 minutes by 8.2 from one season to the next.
It’s a remarkable improvement and much of the reason can be squarely played on Fox’s play. In addition to cranking up the speed of the offense, Fox showed an ability to play under control. On the season, the former Kentucky star posted a 7.3-to-2.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranked in the top 10 for starting NBA point guards.
There were three key factors that led to Fox’s 6.7 points per game scoring improvement from year one to year two. He spent the summer working on his 3-point shot which led to an increase in percentage from 30.7 as a rookie to 37.1 as a sophomore. Fox also attacked the rim at a higher clip, improving his percentage from 64.7 to 68.7 percent while taking 117 more attempts at the rim. Lastly, Fox increased his free throw attempts from 2.7 as a rookie to 5.1 in year two.
As Fox becomes more comfortable behind the arc, his attempts should rise. As he gets stronger, he'll get more opportunities at the rim. As he gains respect around the league, he'll get more free throw attempts. All of these items combined open the door for another massive step forward in offensive production.
Fox improved greatly as a defender in year two and has even more room to improve in the future. Fox finished in the top 10 in the league in steals per game at 1.6 and he ranked behind only Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook amongst starting point guards. He also ranked in the top five in blocks per game amongst starting point guards at .6 per contest.
As a rookie, he ran a +.8 field goal percentage against overall. Fox improved to a -.6 percent against as a sophomore. Most of the improvement came on the perimeter where he held his opponents to 32.7 percent (-2.9 percent) from behind the arc and 34.1 percent (-2.8 percent) from outside of 15 feet.
He struggled to defend inside of 10 feet, but a lot of that has to do with inexperienced help defenders and the team’s lack of a natural shot blocker. If Marvin Bagley and Harry Giles can improve on their help defense and general manager Vlade Divac can add a rim protector in free agency, Fox could take huge strides forward in his overall defensive numbers.
Fox expends plenty on the offensive, which takes away from his ability to be a lockdown defender for his entire stretch on the floor. He’s capable of taking another huge leap forward on the defensive end, especially as he continues to get stronger.
Fox made an incredible leap in year two and shows flashes of being a star. He’s improved in almost every facet of the game and with another summer to add muscle and continue to refine his shooting touch, there is hope that he can take another step forward in year three.
In addition to improving his game on both ends to the court, Fox has also shown that he is ready to take a step into a leadership role moving forward. Another year in a similar system should help Fox build momentum and begin to expand on his production.
Fox averaged 31.4 minutes per game this season and he played in all but one of the Kings’ 82 contests. He’s proven to be durable and he’s ready to take on even a heavier burden in this third season.
Sacramento drafted Fox for his elite speed, but he’s developing into much more than just a tempo setter. He’s expanded his game and the next step is for him to figure out how to make his teammates better.
If Luke Walton hands the keys to the Kings' car to Fox as Dave Joerger did, the sky is the limit.