fbpx

30Q: Can De’Aaron Fox have an MVP caliber season?

No Sacramento Kings has ever won the MVP award. Can De'Aaron Fox be the first?
By | 27 Comments | Sep 13, 2023

May 4, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Trophy for the KIA Most Valuable Player Award for Stephen Curry at Oakland Convention Center. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Sacramento’s success last season came amidst a lot of change. There was a new coach in Mike Brown. There were plenty of other new faces, like Domantas Sabonis, Keegan Murray, Malik Monk and Kevin Huerter, all of whom played key parts in getting the Kings back to the playoffs for the first time in 17 years. But at the center of all it was De’Aaron Fox, who put together one of the finest seasons in Sacramento-era history.

Fox is the longest tenured member of the Kings organization, predating everyone in the front office, coaching staff and on the court. When the Kings drafted him 5th overall the year after trading DeMarcus Cousins, he instantly became the new face of the franchise. Fox’s talent was evident from the start, but it still didn’t translate into team success. Year after year the Kings continued to struggle, despite Fox getting better and better. Doubt began to creep in to many heads that perhaps the Kings needed to move on and start anew, especially with the drafting of another promising young guard in Tyrese Haliburton. Haliburton was the opposite of Fox in many ways, relying more on his stellar playmaking ability and efficient perimeter shooting to make an impact, whereas Fox used his speed to get to the rim and was more comfortable shooting in the midrange. But both Fox and Haliburton were most effective with the ball in their hands, and especially with the drafting of another guard in Davion Mitchell, something had to break sooner rather than later.

The obvious path would have been to trade Fox for more picks and/or young players and build the team around Haliburton. But Monte McNair didn’t do the obvious, and the Kings traded Haliburton for Domantas Sabonis, giving Fox the type of running mate he’d never had before. Sacramento was widely panned for this move, seemingly made out of desperation to get a long absent playoff spot at all costs.

And while Haliburton has been everything Indiana has hoped for and more so far, the renewed freedom and a more compatible partnership with Sabonis has taken Fox’s game to new heights as well. Fox put together one of the best seasons we’ve seen from a Sacramento King ever last year, averaging 25 points on 51.2% from the field, 6.1 assists and 1.1 steals in just 33.4 minutes a game. Only three other players have averaged 25 ore more points in a season for the Sacramento Kings: DeMarcus Cousins (twice), Chris Webber, and Mitch Richmond. Fox is the only one to have done it shooting over 50% from the field (the next highest FG% was Chris Webber at 48.1% in 2000-01).

Fox is still not a reliable outside threat, shooting just 32.4% from three, but his efficiency everywhere else on the court is incredible. His effectiveness at the rim is such that almost all the other comparisons have to be with big men. According to NBA.com, Fox shot 75.3% on shots less than 5 feet away from the basket. That’s a higher percentage than Nikola Jokic (72.8%), Giannis Antetokounmpo (71.5%) and even his own teammate, Domantas Sabonis (69.3%). The only players to attempt more shots near the rim and make them at a higher percentage than De’Aaron Fox last year were all centers: Evan Mobley at 75.4%, Walker Kessler at 75.7%, and Deandre Ayton at 77.6%.

That efficiency carries over to the midrange as well. From 5-9 feet, Fox had 242 attempts, 7th most in the league, and made 54.5% of them. Only Luka Doncic (55%), Nikola Jokic (63.9%) and Nikola Vucevic (60.6%) shot at least 200 attempts and made a higher percentage. From 10-14 feet, Fox had 220 attempts, again 7th in the league, and he hit on 49.5% of those attempts.

Fox was also able to step up when it mattered most, leading the entire league in clutch scoring with 194 points, 35 more than 2nd place DeMar DeRozan. His field goal percentage rose even higher in clutch situations to 52.9% and his free throw percentage jumped from 78% (a career high) to 86% when it mattered most. This excellence in the clutch resulted in Fox winning the first ever Clutch Player of the Year award in a landslide, with 91 of 100 first-place votes.

Fox proved that his game could carry over to the postseason as well, as he was clearly the best player on the floor at times and might have been able to carry the Kings to a series victory and further success had he not fractured his thumb late in Game 4. Despite the injury, Fox still managed to average an impressive 27.4 points, 7.7 assists and 5.4 rebounds against Golden State.

Fox is still not even 26 years old, so even with the greatness of last season, it’s possible he’s still got even more room to grow. And should he hit that growth, it’s only fair to wonder if he could do something only Oscar Robertson has done in Franchise History and win an MVP award.

Winning an MVP is a big step up from making one All-Star game and an All-NBA third team, but I don’t think it’s completely inconceivable like we might have thought even just a couple of years ago. The MVP usually needs to have either an insane statistical season (see Russell Westbrook in 2016-17), be the best player on the best team in the league (see Stephen Curry in 2015 and 2016) or both (see Nikola Jokic or Giannis Antetokoumpo). Perhaps most importantly, the MVP needs to be in the national narrative, and now the Kings are going to be in front of a national audience more than they have been for 20 years.

What would it take for Fox to truly enter the MVP race? For starters, the Kings would likely need to be a top seed, if not the top seed, in the Western Conference. Last year they finished 3rd, but they had some luck on their side in terms of injuries and unusual parity in the league. 48 wins was a phenomenal improvement, but it usually doesn’t get you homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs. Just the prior year, Denver finished with 48 wins and only managed the 6th seed. In 2018-19, the Spurs and Clippers both finished with 48 wins and barely squeaked into the playoffs at the 7th and 8th seed. The last time a Western team finished with a 3rd seed or higher with only 48 wins or fewer (or a winning percentage equivalent for those shortened seasons) was all the way back in 1985-86 when the Denver Nuggets were the 3rd seed at 47-35.

The Kings managing to get through even stiffer competition and achieving an even higher seed would definitely make a case for Fox as MVP, especially if it’s largely due to his improvement. There are a couple areas where Fox could still get a lot better, with the main one being his outside shooting. Fox averaged 5 three point attempts a game last season but made just 32.4% of them. Only LeBron James (32.1%), Kelly Oubre Jr. (31.9%), RJ Barrett (31%) and Cade Cunningham (27.9%) shot worse while shooting at least as many attempts. In the playoffs, Fox upped his attempts to 9 a game, but only made 33.3%. Ideally, Fox would be somewhere around 35-37%, and that definitely seems like it could be in reach. To hit 35%, Fox would only have needed to make 9 more threes last season. The Kings have excellent shooting around Fox, but Fox is one of the only players on the team capable of creating his own looks, a big need in clutch situations and the playoffs.

Fox could also elevate his status by becoming a defensive leader. We saw signs of it last year, but the Kings as a whole were still one of the worst defensive units in the league. Fox does have to spend a lot of energy on the other end as the team’s go-to scorer, but the better the Kings are defensively, the less they’ll need to make up for their setbacks with offense as they often had to do last year.

De’Aaron Fox has blossomed into a bonafide star and one of the best players to ever put on a Sacramento Kings uniform. Best of all, last year may have only just been the beginning, with the best yet to come. MVP? Don’t count him out just yet.

 

Patreon Membership
* indicates required


To prevent spam, our system flags comments that include too many hyperlinks. If you would like to share a comment with multiple links, make sure you email [email protected] for it to be approved.

27 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
BuffaloDiaspora
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 9:55 am

I don’t think Fox even ends up in the conversation for MVP because the offensive system around him just isn’t geared that way. The Kings’ modal game last season was 3 quarters of making Domas the offensive pivot while the defense chased everyone else around the frontcourt and then 1 quarter of tired defenders getting smoked by Fox going to the rim.

This is by no means a bad system – it is winning basketball that takes advantage of the unique construction of this team – but it lacks the sort of heliocentrism that an MVP campaign requires. I’d rather have a title than an MVP and I’m pretty sure that De’Aaron feels the same way

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
September 13, 2023 1:28 pm

Well said.

Bluejohn
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 2:52 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Especially with the way he used Heliocentrism

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
September 13, 2023 6:45 pm
Reply to  Bluejohn

I couldn’t sound that one out so I just chalked it up to an “ism.” Cool cool.

BuffaloDiaspora
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
September 14, 2023 12:00 am
Reply to  Adamsite

Heliocentrism was, in Galileo’s time, the (obviously correct) view that the planets revolved around the sun (aka, a star). In the NBA, most MVP campaigns metaphorically rhyme: the planets (other guys on the court) revolve around the sun (the star player).

Dallas plays that system. Philly, Milwaukee, sort of Denver, sort of wherever KD is, they play that system. The Kings very specifically do not – Fox basically plays as JAG for 3 quarters while Domas does his his thing and then WHAM! the other team has Fox blowing by their defenders without even a careless whisper in the 4th.

It wins games, I love it, you love it, we all love it but it isn’t remotely the same as Luka putting up 30ppg or Embiid doing 29/15 every night or Jokic doing a 25 pt triple double as a matter of course. And that’s totally fine

andy_sims
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
September 13, 2023 10:25 am

Fox would need to have a season that was so superlative that it would be farcical to even discuss anyone else as MVP. Sportswriters are exceptionally lazy (present company excluded!), and will default to a name-brand at any given opportunity.

(Fox averages 29/9/5)

“MVP? Ehh, Embiid? That’s fine.”

With the addition of Vez, Fox may not need to score as much as he did last season, so even if he’s actually more valuable, the panel will bottom-line the numbers, and tsk-tsk Fox’s “regression.”

You mentioned Fox’s defense, and if he’s able to lessen his offensive load and use more energy harassing opponents on defense, that’ll be more than enough for me, MVP or no.

RikSmits
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
September 13, 2023 10:30 am

Personally, i don’t care about that. I’d be happy for Fox, but the only thing that matters is a ring. Having an MVP (Fox or whoever) who’d fail to bring in a championship would be more aggravating, in my view.

I just want that banner, preferably without that asinine “world champion” claim on it.

andy_sims
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Vote Up
Comments
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
September 13, 2023 10:54 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Can the ring say “world champion” on it, and if it does, do you still want it?

cloudyeyes
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 12:11 pm

In my opinion, these things need to happen for Fox to be in the MVP conversation: Increase PPG to 30+, Kings are top 2 in the West, increase 3 point % to around 36%+.

With that said, I think Sabonis would also garner a ton of interest as MVP, as well, if Kings are top two. At this stage in his career, he is about a season off, statistically, from where Jokic was. If Sabonis gets his assists up to 10+ and manages to work on his 3 a bit more, he would also be in the MVP conversation averaging a triple double.

I liken this debate, at this point, a bit to Jamal Murray/Jokic, though Fox is better than Murray.

Last edited 10 months ago by cloudyeyes
PretendGhost
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 12:22 pm
Reply to  cloudyeyes

Eye test shows that Sabonis and Jokic are not at all similar players, and I’d rather Sabonis work on his mid-range game than his 3. Even the way they get their assists is very different, and ball handling is a world apart.

Even if Sabonis improves his jumper, his motion will always be too slow for it to have a major impact. Sabonis is at or near his ceiling right now, and his presence raises our floor. De’Aaron Fox is who decides how high our ceiling is.

Maximus
Comments
Comments
September 13, 2023 3:05 pm
Reply to  PretendGhost

Well said. I think Fox and/or Keegan Murray decide our ceiling.

cloudyeyes
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 3:57 pm
Reply to  PretendGhost

Just comparing stats – not at all saying they’re the same player. Just saying if Sabonis gets in the MVP discussion, he needs a triple double. Comparing stats, they’re statistically close at the same points in their careers.

cloudyeyes
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 15, 2023 7:29 pm
Reply to  PretendGhost

I also want to mention that with the addition of Vezenkov, another threat from the 3, along with Duarte…the team is stacked with a bunch of elite 3 point threats – an improving Keegan, Huerter, Monk, Barnes, Vezenkov, Duarte…then you got Lyles, maybe Fox if he improves his three. Provided how Sabonis gets his assists off the top of the key/3 point line, I can see Sabonis flirting with double digit assists. Sabonis is a year younger than Jokic. Jokic made the jump from 7 assists to nearly 10 last season, from 27 years old to 28. So, I disagree Sabonis is at his ceiling.

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
September 13, 2023 1:35 pm
Reply to  cloudyeyes

I liken this debate, at this point, a bit to Jamal Murray/Jokic, though Fox is better than Murray.

Hmmm, that’s interesting. If Denver were to hypothetically offer Murray for Fox I’d at least like Monte to take some time to think it over. Murray is a legit outside threat. If Sabonis were surrounded by 4 very real 40% three point shooters it could be something to see.

I’d wager that a “Fox is better than Murray” debate would be very real in NBA circles, especially after the playoffs and finals he just put in.

Jack
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 14, 2023 7:07 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I am looking at just one year the playoffs for Fox. To me he needs at least one more for the debate. In any case I would take Fox hands down if you take just the fourth quarter alone.

Hippity_Hop_Barbershop
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
Original Member
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
September 13, 2023 12:20 pm

Yes. Next.

TaintedMeat
September 13, 2023 12:40 pm

Fox won’t win. You need to be in the conversation for a year or two before they actually give it to you… Two or three years from now? Maybe, if he continues to step up his game.

AnybodyButBagley
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 12:46 pm

Sabonis is the MVP. Fox is the role player.

Mike120
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
September 13, 2023 1:24 pm

Kings would have to at least make it to the WCF and Fox average 30+ points a game. Now that Embiid has his MVP, he can stop crying for another one.

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
September 13, 2023 1:26 pm

I don’t think Fox puts up the gaudy type of numbers most MVP candidate do. He’s not a great shooter, not an elite defender, and not an exceptional passer. He’s a scoring guard, and an elite one at that, but that’s too one demential for an MVP.

The thing the more realistic MVP discussion should be about Sabonis. His game feels more inclined to MVP honors.

Butt pulled prediction: Both Fox and Sabonis will have exceptional seasons each earning MVP votes, but Haliburton will get more overall as he will continue to be a 20+ PPG scorer, lead the league in assists, while also taking the Pacers into the playoffs. I mean seriously, he just put up 20 and 10 while shooting 40% from three. THAT’S NEVER BEEN DONE BEFORE.

Jack
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 14, 2023 7:31 am
Reply to  Adamsite

I don’t care about MVP and I think Fox doesn’t care either. He might even root for Hali. What Fox wants because he is a team player is a ring. I’ll root for that. GO KINGS!

RobHessing
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
September 13, 2023 1:33 pm

He’ll finish behind Haliburton.
comment image

Adamsite
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 14
September 13, 2023 1:41 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Ha! Beat you by 7 minutes!

RobHessing
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Author
September 13, 2023 2:13 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

comment image

Klam
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Original Member
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
September 13, 2023 4:21 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

“Dad, just drag the mouse across the desktop.”
comment image

Last edited 10 months ago by Klam
UpgradedToQuestionable
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
Comments
Vote Up
Patreon Supporter
September 13, 2023 9:22 pm

The best chance for a regular season MVP trophy (Michael Jordan) would be for De’Aaron Fox to first win a Finals MVP trophy(Bill Russell).

And that is something I can imagine as more likely, even while playing for Sacramento (IMO)

Inthestarz
Comments
Vote Up
Comments
Vote Up
September 16, 2023 12:32 am

Question should be for Sabonis, clearly the Kings hub and best player

Badge Legend

Patreon Supporter Patreon Supporter   Registered On Day 1 Registered On Day 1   Published Post Published Post  Published Post Nostradumbass
Comment Up Votes 200 Up Votes   Comment Up Votes 500 Up Votes    1,000 Up Votes    3,000+ Up Votes

Comments 50 Comments   Comments 100 Comments    250 Comments    500 Comments    1000+ Comments