In the lead-up to the 2017 NBA Draft, Kings coach Dave Joerger said he ran De'Aaron Fox through a particular set of drills.
Joerger told ESPN's Zach Lowe he had the Kings staff "blindfold Fox with medical wrap" before instructing the Kentucky product to execute various dribble moves over the length of the court and at full speed. Then, without the blindfold, Fox ran pick-and-rolls to his left and his right, and had to pass to a player wearing a color that Joerger identified.
"I wanted to challenge him," Joerger said. "It was fun. He was just magnetic in his personality."
It's safe to say Fox won over his eventual head coach. The Kings ultimately selected Fox with the No. 5 pick in the draft that year, and he is now in the middle of a breakout season in his second pro campaign.
He is shooting better from the field (45.7 percent) and from the 3-point line (37.0 percent) while averaging more points (17.4), assists (7.2) and rebounds (3.8) than he did as a rookie. His emergence has led the Kings to their highest win total (36) in a decade, with nine games remaining in the regular season.
Five wins would give Sacramento its first .500 season since 2005-06.
Fox is living up to the potential Joerger envisioned that day, and that his boss thought of even earlier. Kings general manager Vlade Divac told Lowe that he had honed in on Fox after he dropped 39 points on eventual No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball's UCLA squad to give Kentucky an Elite Eight berth in the 2017 NCAA Tournament.
While interviewing with the Philadelphia 76ers before the 2017 draft, Fox told the Sixers brass '[that] s--- was personal' when asked if the win had any extra meaning. He told Lowe he simply took pleasure in besting a prospective professional peer.
"It wasn't necessarily because it was Lonzo," Fox told ESPN. "It was that he was one of the only NBA-level point guards we played. I didn't get to play Dennis [Smith Jr.] or Markelle [Fultz]."
Fox hasn't met up with Fultz in the NBA yet, but has averaged 16.7 points, 5.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds per game in head-to-head matchups with Smith Jr. and Ball. That includes the third 30-point effort of his pro career, which came in a March matinee with the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
The Kings will, barring miraculous surge, miss out on the playoffs yet again this season. But, Fox's growth could have them back there sooner rather than later.