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De’Aaron Fox Gives the Kings Hope for the Future

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When making a list of the most tortured/mismanaged/worst franchises in sports, the Sacramento Kings always warrant a spot in the top 5, along with other infamous teams like the Cleveland Browns and the New York Knicks. They have a culture of losing that started shortly after the younger Bush started his second term and it’s been ugly.

Their owner, Vivek Ranadive, has a history of being egotistical. Their GM, Vlade Divac, is an ex-player who was a star for the Kings but hasn’t put a team in the playoffs in his tenure and has missed on essentially all his draft picks. Their superstar for many years, Demarcus Cousins, hated most of their coaches and was one of the biggest malcontents… ever.

I could go on and on and on and on about the ineptitude that has plagued Sacramento but I think you’re getting the picture.

When trying to change a culture of losing that’s so ingrained it’s associated with the very name of the franchise, you need a special player, one with talent and charisma. That type of combination is rare.

Enter De’Aaron Fox. The 6’3” guard from Kentucky garnered comparisons to John Wall before the draft. Fox had no shortage of physical talents, with exceptional speed and quickness that allowed him to get to the basket. There was just one big question with him, one that most athletic guards are faced with. Could he shoot the ball?

I was personally a huge fan of Fox, both because of his playing style and because of his off-court demeanor (more on that in a second).

Fox entered the draft pegged as the second-best guard in the class, behind UCLA’s Lonzo Ball. He took that as a personal insult, as he had torched Ball during the NCAA tournament when Kentucky and UCLA faced off, scoring 39 points and holding his opponent to 10.

But Lonzo went second to the Lakers and Fox’s name was called 3 picks later by Adam Silver, announcing his selection by none other than the Sacramento Kings.

For a rookie, there could be almost no situation worse than Sacramento. That was where careers went to die and in year one it looked like Fox was headed the same way. He struggled with his shot, hitting only 31% of his shots and grading out as one of the worst NBA players in the league.

There was nothing but pessimism in Sacramento, especially after they passed on Luka Doncic in favor of Marvin Bagley. It looked dark, as Fox’s career and Sacramento’s entire franchise looked in primes position for an implosion.

Fox released this video a few days before the season. I loved it, but also thought that It was a lot of hype for a player who hadn’t done anything yet.

I dismissed it, and in doing so, dismissed him. I don’t know why I did that. If the NBA has taught me anything, it’s that progress for teams and players isn’t always easy, that rookies, specifically guards, struggle… a lot.

Well, it was a dumb thing to do, because De’Aaron Fox is having a spectacular year so far. His three-point percentage has gone down, but that’s largely due to some tough attempts and a low sample size (he’s taken 7 so far). Other than that, there is essentially nothing to criticize about his game. There are a few clips here that show exactly what he’s done.

nba.com

Young guards, especially ones that don’t have consistent shots, are always better in the fast break and here’s a great example. The defense isn’t set up, and Fox takes advantage of it. Look at how he probes into the defense here, racing up court in a flash. Ingles (#2), is caught watching Fox and Cauley-Stein (#00) is wide open under the rim for an easy finish.

nba.com

Here’s Fox in the half court. Gets the screen from Bagley (#35), recognizes that Rubio (#3) and Niang (#31) are too close to each other and takes advantage of it. There’s confusion in the Jazz defense, and rather than wait, Fox uses his acceleration to blow past both the defenders and get into open space. Now, the end of the play really shows his development. Last year, Fox would have put his head down and charged right into Derrick Favors (#15), resulting in a missed shot and maybe if lucky, a foul call. This year, he’s developed a floater, that short shot that goes right over the outstretched fingers of Favors and into the hoop.

nba.com

Here it is again. This was one of my favorite plays. Yogi Ferrell (#11), sets a screen for Fox, who gets a head start and takes the handoff from Cauley-Stein moving at full speed. He’s got a step on his man and all that stands between him and the basket is the best rim protector in the league, Rudy Gobert (#27). Once again, Fox stops on a dime and throws the teardrop up and in.

nba.com

Speed kills fellas. Fox moves faster than everyone else and that’s the points he gets that only he and maybe two other players in the NBA can get on a regular basis.

nba.com

Comes off a screen and steps confidently into a three. His form looks solid, no hitches or big mechanical issues. Ball comes out cleanly and without any hesitation. When that develops to league average or better, he’s going to become nearly unstoppable.

nba.com

Oh man, this is simply special right here. What a move by Fox to get in the pain and then finish around not one, but two defenders. He didn’t have that in his arsenal a year ago, he’s added that to his game, making him a much more dynamic player. This is a play that very few guards can make, a combination of skill and athleticism that is rarely found. Fox has it.

He’s also a really interesting guy. I watched an interview of him before the draft and he’s just confident. He’s comfortable in his own skin, something uncommon in most people his age. Just look at his ease in this video.

Sports Illustrated

Or this one.

nba.com

Fox is a nerd in some sorts, playing large amounts of video games and watching anime. He’s not ashamed of it, in fact, he embraces it. Just look at his twitter profile picture.

He’s personable, funny, and just likeable. If he continues to perform like he does, and the Kings can surround him with some semblance of talent, “Swipa da Fox” is going to become the next big star in this league.

Now, the Kings still suck. They won’t make the playoffs this year, and probably won’t the year after. But for a franchise that has been without a star, or forced to watch a star who was a malcontent, De’Aaron Fox offers a chance for a bright future, a player Sacramento fans can watch grow up and become a superstar.

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De’Aaron Fox Gives the Kings Hope for the Future