De’Aaron Fox is knocking on the door of NBA superstardom
Nov 20, 2023, 3:22 PM
(Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)
It’s no coincidence that the Sacramento Kings are 6-1 in games with De’Aaron Fox active compared to 2-3 without him. The seventh-year guard has been playing the best basketball of his career early into the 2023-24 NBA season.
Often referred to as the ‘head of the snake’ by his teammates and coaching staff, Fox is responsible for setting the tone on both sides of the ball. Defensively, he’s bought in and engaged on most possessions. Offensively, his foot has remained on the gas from the opening tip. Oh, and he’s knocking down triples at a career rate.
If those three things can keep up, De’Aaron Fox could wiggle his way into first-team All-NBA conversations or (maybe) MVP talk sooner rather than later.
Nearly all of his counting metrics currently sit at career-high rates. 31.9 points per game ties Joel Embiid for the highest average in the association. He’s also posting a career-best 4.6 rebounds per night and 1.9 steals, but his continued progress from beyond the arc stands out above the rest.
Before the 2022-23 season, Fox spent the offseason with assistant coach Luke Loucks working on the specifics of his jump shot. The work was sometimes apparent, but he ended the year 32.4 percent from three on 5.0 attempts per game. Those numbers have skyrocketed through his first seven games this season.
The star guard is knocking down 41.7 percent of his 8.6 (!!) three-point attempts per game. Not only are they going in, but he appears confident and comfortable, letting it fly when given space.
“If people want to play off [De’Aaron Fox] or go under pick and rolls, they’re going to pay.” – Coach Mike Brown yesterday
Fox is converting 41.7 percent of his 8.6 3PA/G.
With the threat of his speed, a developed jumper would elevate him to another level. pic.twitter.com/YtvcHecVvY
— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) November 20, 2023
Defenses have grown accustomed to playing off De’Aaron Fox and going under screens since he came into the NBA as the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft. Previously, that decision was understandable, but he’s been taking advantage of that coverage this season.
After attempting nine or more threes on five occasions last season, Fox has managed that tally in three of his first seven showings. Against the Dallas Mavericks, he was 6/10 from long range and gained respect throughout the action to the point where Derrick Jones Jr. went over screens to limit those looks — something Fox has rarely seen.
That unlocks everything. Voted the fastest player in the NBA with the ball in his hands, he thrives getting downhill. Oh, and his mid-range remains deadly.
So, how does any team attempt to contain De’Aaron Fox if this keeps up? Continuing at this rate could catapult the reigning inaugural Clutch Player of the Year into a prestigious, elite category of true three-level scorers.
Last season, part of the Kentucky alum’s clutch gene led to his fourth-quarter production significantly trumping the first three segments. After managing 11.1 points and 3.1 assists per game on 49.7/32.7/76.7 shooting in first halves last season, he’s climbed to 15.1 points and 3.4 assists on 56.2/48.3/71.4 early into 2023-24.
Sacramento’s head coach, Mike Brown, claims he knew De’Aaron Fox would be special when he had the opportunity to coach him at an Adidas Nations camp in 2014.
“I worked it one year, and Fox was there,” Brown said after his team’s victory in Dallas. “When I worked with him, I was just in awe of his strength, quickness, feel, and intelligence.”
Brown highlighted the people that Fox surrounds himself with, starting with his wife, Recee. “Some people think I’m hard on him,” he continued. “I’m scared of Recee in terms of her competitiveness. She is a competitor.”
When De’Aaron and Recee go on vacation in the offseason, coach Loucks joins them to aid in Fox’s consistent workouts. Loucks has spent hours with the star guard fine-tuning all aspects of his game at the request of the Fox family.
“When you have that type of hunger, desire, however you want to call it, you’re going to have a chance at [MVP],” Brown said.
The Kings offensive rating with Fox sits at a team-best 121.5 with him on the floor, compared to a team-worst 107.3 while he rests. Their pace is 104.94 with the 6’3 guard compared to 98.52 without, which is also the widest variance among his teammates. He’s also managing the game while committing the fewest turnovers of his career (1.9). It’s all been there so far.
While the offensive growth of De’Aaron Fox will likely populate headlines, his defensive improvement has been staggering. It’s often said that 90 percent of defense is effort, and Fox’s engagement on that end on any given night has been phenomenal.
Just watch De’Aaron Fox’s defense here pic.twitter.com/pxrI5NvnGS
— Brenden Nunes (@BrendenNunesNBA) April 18, 2023
Glimpses have appeared in years prior, but his consistency on that end is starting to emerge. Often assigned to the opposing point guard, Fox sets the tone for his team’s coverage. While his 1.9 steals per game is currently a career-high, it’s his disruption via deflections and physical perimeter containment the coaching staff loves to see.
This De’Aaron Fox guy is pretty good pic.twitter.com/BWopmEVHGC
— Skyler (KFR) (@SacFilmRoom) November 14, 2023
“He’s a two-way player,” Brown said. “He guarded multiple guys tonight, he guarded Kyrie (Irving). He guarded Luka (Doncic) a little bit. He guarded off the ball, and he was phenomenal, but that’s who he’s supposed to be. We need to get that every single night from Fox for 48 minutes, and that’s his mindset.”
“Once he’s there, now he’s MVP because nobody, nobody can frickin mess with that man. He’s that talented. Believe that.”
As mentioned earlier, we’re talking about a seven-game sample size here. There’s still a whole lot of season left for De’Aaron Fox and the Sacramento Kings to play in the 2023-24 NBA season.
But if he can continue to convert his triples on high volume, remain consistent throughout all four quarters, and impact the opposition with consistent defensive pressure, he might warrant the elusive title of NBA superstar. Well, that is, if the Kings continue to win games.
Sitting at 6-1 with their All-NBA point guard in the lineup is an encouraging start to the year for The Beam Team.
- Monday, November 20th – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 5:00 PM PST
- Wednesday, November 22nd – Sacramento Kings @ New Orleans Pelicans – 5:00 PM PST
- Friday, November 24th – Sacramento Kings @ Minnesota Timberwolves** – 5:00 PM PST
- Tuesday, November 28th – Sacramento Kings vs. Golden State Warriors** – 7:00 PM PST
- Wednesday, November 29th – Sacramento Kings vs. Los Angeles Clippers – 7:00 PM PST
** NBA In-Season Tournament Group Play