Kings

Kings season in review: Breaking down De'Aaron Fox's sophomore campaign

Kings season in review: Breaking down De'Aaron Fox's sophomore campaign

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.

Offense

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.

Defense

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.

Overall

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.  

[RELATED: How Kings can use Nuggets' path as road map to playoffs]

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.

Harrison Barnes, Kings want chance to make NBA playoffs upon restart

Harrison Barnes, Kings want chance to make NBA playoffs upon restart

When the global coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic shut down the 2019-20 NBA season back in March, the Kings were 28-36. Not the prettiest record.

But Luke Walton's team was making progress. They had won seven of the last 10 games, and were 3.5 games behind the Memphis Grizzlies for the No. 8 playoff seed in the Western Conference.

Now, with the NBA nearing a return-to-play plan, the question becomes: Will the Kings get a chance to compete for that final playoff spot or will the league move forward with the current 16 playoff teams?

"For us, we're kind of in a tough situation because we're on the fringe," Kings forward Harrison Barnes told Bleacher Report's Howard Beck on the "Full 48" podcast. "So in all these scenarios that are coming about, we're kind of that unique case where 'Well, do they get the play-in tournament? Do they get the five games? Since they're three games out, do they just go with playoff teams?' So you just try to stay in shape, stay ready, but you know whatever decision comes about, it's going to be made with everybody in mind, but not everyone's going to be able to be comfortable with that solution. Someone's going to get the short end of that stick, and we hope to have the opportunity to play."

[PURPLE TALK PODCAST: Listen to the latest episode]

One rumored scenario would see all teams returning and playing a few regular-season games before the playoffs start. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard opposed that idea last week because he doesn't feel his team would get a true shot at making the playoffs. He would prefer the Kings, Blazers, New Orleans Pelicans and San Antonio Spurs compete with Grizzlies in a play-in tournament to determine the final playoff teams.

"I think Dame is right," Barnes told Beck. "I mean, if you come back and play, you want to be playing for something. The risk of traveling, being in Orlando in that type of environment, with any precaution that can be taken, there is a risk in that, so if you're going to be playing, you want to be playing for something. All of us who have been in isolation, we've been training, we've been hoping for this moment. You want to see that rewarded if you can, but if you're going to be in a situation where you do all this training and you come out there for a few games and you're not able to qualify for the playoffs, then it makes sense to probably have playoff teams and go from there."

[RELATED: Kings reportedly to get playoff shot]

Barnes and the Kings are a young team that entered the 2019-20 season with high expectations. But injuries to De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley early in the year set the team back. Now, with everyone nearing full health, Barnes wants to see what the team could do if they were given the chance to compete against the Western Conference bubble teams.

"Our team is a little bit different because we had a lot of injuries throughout the season, and we were starting to hit our stride," Barnes said. "But now we're healthy, so if the opportunity is there for us to play and make the playoffs, we want that opportunity, we want to see where we're at. There's no other simulation we can get for games. This group, where we're at, we need to play, we need to play together, and playing for something is important."

[SPORTS UNCOVERED: Listen to the latest episode]

NBA rumors: Kings to get playoffs shot in potential Adam Silver plan

NBA rumors: Kings to get playoffs shot in potential Adam Silver plan

The Kings would get a chance to end their 13-year postseason drought in a proposal to restart the NBA season that reportedly is gaining momentum among the league's owners.

Sacramento would be one of 22 teams headed to Disney's ESPN Wide World of Sports just outside of Orlando in a plan that has "growing support," ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported Friday, citing sources. The Kings would also be included in a 20-team format that "remains alive," sources told ESPN.

Wojnarowski and Shelburne reported that the NBA will vote Thursday on a format to restart the season during a board of governors call. The league requires a three-fourths majority to approve any such plan, and the owners reportedly will vote with whichever format commissioner Adam Silver recommends.

The Kings were in the thick of a playoff chase when the NBA suspended its season on March 11 due to the coronavirus' spread, just 3.5 games back of the Western Conference's eighth and final playoff spot. Sacramento's game that night was supposed to the be the last before the league indefinitely shut its doors, but the New Orleans Pelicans -- the Kings' opponents that night -- were reluctant to take the court once they learned referee Courtney Kirkland had recently worked a Utah Jazz game. Jazz center Rudy Gobert's positive coronavirus test earlier that night prompted the league to suspend the season.

Teams that were within six games of the final playoff spots in each conference would be included in the 22-team format, according to Wojnarowski and Shelburne. The 20-team format reportedly would only include the top eight seeds in each conference and the four teams, including the Kings, within four games of the eighth seed. If the NBA opts to resume the season with 22 teams, there would be regular-season games and a play-in tournament "to compete for playoff berths in both the Eastern and Western Conference," Wojnarowski and Shelburne reported.

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The Kings have gotten good news all week, with NBA general managers reportedly preferring by a wide margin a "Playoffs Plus" format to resume the season with 20 or more teams and their inclusion in all the formats gaining traction among the league's decision-makers. 

Sacramento could get even better -- and more official -- news next Thursday if either a 20- or 22-team format is approved.