In the first four years of his career, expectations for De’Aaron Fox rose with the start of each season and each time, he has answered the call. Now, in a year fresh off a 5-year $163M contract extension, expectations are aimed for the stars. But has his performance thus far warranted stardom in the league?
After what some may call a slow start to the season, Fox has regained form and has been producing numbers that resemble those of a bonafide all star over the past month. But even with his great play over the last chunk of games, is it enough to earn him an all star nod this year?
After a shortened offseason and a short preseason, NBA players didn’t get the normal amount of allotted time to prepare for the season. Some players took longer to shake off the rust and settle in as their usual selves, and Fox was part of this group.
That slow start did not last long, though. Fox has absolutely taken off recently and has definitely looked like the star so many Kings fans hope for and expect.
On the season he is scoring 22.3 points a game, a career high, and good enough for 27th best in the league. But he just isn’t scoring points for himself, he is finding his teammates for open buckets as well with 6.6 assists a game, good enough for 12th best in the NBA.
Hot Streak or The New Normal?
What’s been most impressive about De’Aaron Fox are his stats over the last 11 games where we’ve seen him finally break out and go on an absolute tear.[table “52” not found /]
For good reason, his recent play has garnered attention from around the league. After losing four straight games, Fox has propelled the team to winning five out of their last six, a stretch that could have easily gone undefeated if not for a one-point loss to the Heat.
During this hot streak, the Kings have restored their record to a manageable 10-11 which places them in the 11th spot in the West, and much of the credit can be dished to Fox.
There’s no doubt that Fox is running things during the first three quarters, but he always seems to dig deep in order to kick it up a notch and absolutely dominate the fourth quarter. In the last three games, Fox is averaging 15.7 points per fourth quarter, showcasing huge performances during crunch time.
Fox is developing into a scorer, but more than that, it also shows that the guy is taking on a leadership role. He is unafraid of backing down when the pressure is at its highest, and that’s what makes a true star.
Fox’s career-high going into this season was 7.3 assists per game which he achieved in his sophomore year, but his numbers declined to 6.8 assists per game last year.
As a ball dominant point guard, that number needs to improve in order to stand out in an all star debate.
Still, even with 6.6 assists a game this year, Fox has definitely been silencing the doubters with the 8 assists he has averaged over the last 11 games; a number that incorporates 4 games with double digit assists.
Big Game Expectations
Looking at these last 11 games in particular, Fox has shown he can produce big numbers every night, something that is a standard operating procedure for the highest caliber players. Amidst this roll he’s on, he has shown that he can take control of games.
In two specific games against the New Orleans Pelicans over this recent stretch, Fox dropped 43 points with 13 assists before following it up with 38 points and 12 assists two weeks later. Even as he’s shown that he can put up 26 points on any given night, it’s hard to even pin him down to some standard like that because he often explodes beyond his team’s expectations.
Fox has been leading the Kings up a steep slope in the standings, and in the process, he has been putting up numbers that are all star worthy. But as we all know, there are many other factors when it comes to making an all star team.
What immediately stands out is the plethora of talented guards to go up against in securing an all star spot in the Western Conference:[table “50” not found /]
There is a crowded group of great talent vying to fill one of the five guard spots on the West’s all star roster, and unfortunately for Fox, most of these players are either putting up better numbers, playing on a better team, or both.
Fox also hasn’t been able to stand out among the league as a notable name. Even looking at the vote totals so far, the injured Klay Thompson has amassed more tallies than Fox.
Considering the tight competition, that slow start Fox had significantly hinders his chances (plus a game where he played only five minutes due to injury).
The overarching argument against Fox in terms of being an all star is the team he plays for.
Despite putting themselves within 2 games of 4th place in the Western Conference and improving their record from 5-10 to 10-11, the Sacramento Kings are still sitting in 11th place in the West. Being on a winning team matters and merely playing well lately is not going to cut it in the crowded all star conversation.
All star players are primarily plucked from teams jostling for playoff position, not teams in a five-team battle for an 8th spot. Although the Kings could go on a tear before the all star selections are announced in mid February, this seems unlikely with how their schedule looks for the rest of the month.
Unless Fox and the Kings can prove that they are an established playoff team, our beloved point guard will always be fighting an uphill battle in this jam-packed league.
How Fox Can Continue to Elevate His Game and Make His All Star Case
Other than the obvious notion of scoring more points, getting more assists, and winning more games, there are aspects of Fox’s game that he will either need to maintain consistency or work to improve in order to have a solid case to prove that he’s a perennial all star.
First things first, De’Aaron Fox needs to improve his free throw shooting percentage. For a player who is shooting 51% on in-game shots between 8-16 feet, there’s no reason Fox should be shooting a dismal 70% from the charity stripe. It’s tough to say where Fox’s struggles at the line come from considering he’s an effective jump shooter.
And the urgency to capitalize on those free points only increases knowing he sits at 11th in the NBA in free throw attempts per game. Not only are these missed opportunities, but often times he’ll miss late game free throws which has lead to the Kings finding themselves on the losing side of the contest.
He has shown a slight improvement over the last couple of games, however, and has successfully made his last 13 free throw attempts. Even so, it’s important to keep this trend going so that he doesn’t miss any more opportunities. Based on his free throw numbers, he could easily be averaging closer to 24 points a game if he rose that percentage.
Another aspect of his game that needs improvement is in the turnover department. At 3.4 turnovers per contest, Fox ranks 16th in most turnovers per game.
His recent turnover average has been higher than we’re used to, so maybe it’s a symptom of the slow start and will begin shrinking as the season progresses. Nevertheless, there are far too many times this season where we watch Fox lose the ball in the paint while dribbling into heavy traffic or see him telegraph an easy pass for the defender to intercept.
Fox needs to be more careful with ball, especially when the game comes down to the wire. His 0.9 turnovers per fourth quarter lands him in 7th place for most in the league for players who have played at least 15 games.
It is fair to point out that Fox is in the top 20 in usage rating which tends to lead to more turnovers, but turning the ball over less is always a beneficial thing.
Again, if Fox wants to rise to an elite level, he needs to take care of the ball better, especially in tight contests.
Three Point Shooting
Heading into this season, if you asked anyone what aspect of Fox’s game would need to improve most if he wants to be a star, chances are that most would say developing a great three point shot.
Twenty-one games into the season, I think Fox has done pretty well with his three, knocking down 35% of his looks on 5.0 attempts per game.
This improvement has and will be critical to Fox’s development as an NBA star. With threes being heaved up at historic rates in today’s NBA, guards need to have a lethal three point shot in their arsenal.
He has looked solid from deep this year, and in places beyond the arc where I didn’t trust him before, I now have more faith. Hopefully this early season success from three point land is no fluke and he’s able to keep his three point percentage around 35%+ going forward.
Much like his three point shooting, Fox’s defense has looked better this year compared to that of years past. However, although Fox isn’t seen as a bad defender, he isn’t known as being a stopper on the defensive end.
Fox has a lot of potential on defense. In addition to his speed and quickness, he has added some weight to his frame this offseason. With that, Fox has the strength to body up his opponents, the footwork to stay in front of his man, and the anticipation to quickly intercept passes.
So far this year, Fox has definitely shown us that he has what it takes to be a great defender, but he is still some ways away from reaching his full potential, a peak he will reach one day.
Becoming an elite two-way player could easily propel Fox into NBA stardom.
So, is Fox an All Star?
Personally, as a diehard Kings fan, of course I am inclined to say yes. Fox has looked as good as anyone in the league recently and he shouldn’t be punished for his team’s record in the consideration for an individual achievement.
But with that said, the five Western Conference all star guard spots are Lillard’s, Doncic’s, Curry’s, Paul’s, and Mitchell’s to lose. And with an array of other viable candidates, I wouldn’t bet on Fox being an all star.
Realistically, until the Kings show that they’re a team to be reckoned with, Fox’s case for being an NBA all star can’t match up. But if they can keep up with the team’s upward trajectory on the back of his stellar play, Fox could be in a good position to at least be a replacement in case of injury.
One thing’s for sure: Fox is blossoming into a star before our very eyes and it is a joy to watch. He has easily been one of the very best in the league over the last month, and I know he will continue to be something special in years to come. In fact, I can see this season being looked back on and people thinking “how in the world was De’Aaron Fox not an all star?”
Kings fans should not feel upset if Fox’s name is excluded from the all star starters and reserves list come mid-February. I have no doubt that he will keep up his current rate of production and only get better. And who knows, maybe being a “snub” will elevate Fox’s game even more.
The Kings may not have an all star this season, but it’ll only be a matter of time until they do.