30Q | Articles

30Q: Will De’Aaron Fox start the season strong?

If the Kings are going to end the playoff drought this season, De'Aaron Fox needs to put an end to the slow start trend.

The Sacramento Kings –– both the franchise and individual players –– have a lot riding on this season. Expectations are the highest they've been in quite some time, and I know that is more of a diss than a compliment, but it's true. This team is a legitimate contender to make the playoffs, and that is not something you would have said more than handful of times over the last 16 years.

And no individual player on the roster has more riding on this season than De'Aaron Fox. A lot has been said over the years about what Fox needs to get better at –– defensive effort, 3-point shooting, off-ball offense, to name a few. All fair criticisms of his game, but I think Fox's most fixable flaw is the unfortunate trend that has developed over the course of his career, and that is routinely starting off seasons significantly worse than he ends them.

Simply put, the Kings can't afford another slow start from De'Aaron Fox if they want to reach any of their goals. The road to the playoffs is too narrow and each game is too important to wait around for him to get comfortable and start playing like a star after the All-Star break. Let's pause to look at some data.

De'Aaron Fox Pre/Post All-Star Break Splits 

De'Aaron Fox FG% 3P% FT% TS% ORtg DRtg PLS/MNS PTS REB AST
19-20 (pre All-Star) 0.468 0.304 0.681 0.544 108 114 -4.1 19.7 4.2 7
19-20 (post All-Star) 0.504 0.271 0.76 0.586 117 116 -2.4 24.5 3 6.4
20-21 (pre All-Star) 0.466 0.342 0.672 0.551 111 121 -6.7 23 3.2 7.6
20-21 (post All-Star 0.491 0.293 0.778 0.582 116 117 -1.5 28.5 3.9 6.6
21-22 (pre All-Star) 0.464 0.271 0.754 0.539 107 116 -5.2 21.8 3.9 5.1
21-22 (post All-Star) 0.502 0.368 0.731 0.582 114 119 -1.6 29.3 4 7.5

I will spare you another poorly formatted table and direct you to his splits on Basketball reference where you can drill down further and see that October and November are the least efficient, lowest scoring months of his career.

You can find excuses for Fox's slow starts if you're feeling forgiving. He's had early season injuries, he's had India trips, he's had weaker supporting casts, he's had front office and coaching drama, etc. But I don't really care about the why in this case. Whatever the reason is, it has to get better or Fox isn't the player the Kings need him to be. I think this is the year we find out, one way or another.

De'Aaron Fox routinely delivers All-Star level production when it's just too late. But unlike improved shooting, better defense, or sudden off-ball prowess, Fox is perfectly capable of playing better, sooner. It's his easiest path to an All-Star appearance, and the easiest way he can drive the Kings into the playoffs.

The question is will he do it? I don't know. It would require him overcoming an alarming trend that has followed him throughout his professional basketball career, but it feels incredibly doable. It's not like rooting for Alex Len to turn into Rudy Gobert. This is a fair expectation for De'Aaron Fox as he enters his prime basketball years.

And for the Kings' sake, it has to be done.

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PretendGhost
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September 3, 2022 1:15 pm

Hard not to wonder if he’s just better when the games matter less. I hope I’m wrong.

He was a plus defender in 2019, and a decent (if inconsistent) shooter. I think this season will tell it that was a mirage or the seeds of something real

Last edited 28 days ago by PretendGhost
murraytant
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September 3, 2022 1:26 pm

Important. Particularly this year with some rising but skeptical expectations.
If he gets off to a good start and pulls the others along with him and gets the victories, then all thoughts of Victor will vanish.

aplumley
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September 3, 2022 1:33 pm

All his social media is filled with wedding pics. Happy for him, but it might have been an off season that didn’t involve as much basketball activities as he might have in previous seasons… For better or for worse

PretendGhost
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September 3, 2022 1:37 pm
Reply to  aplumley

He brought a trainer with him on his honeymoon

RikSmits
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September 3, 2022 2:17 pm
Reply to  PretendGhost

Hey, it’s his marriage. I don’t judge.

Jack
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September 3, 2022 3:17 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

I was sitting here reading the comments. Across the desk my wife is working on some of her things she does on the computer. I asked her if I could read what the post was about and give me some words of wisdom. Without even mentioning the question she said” You mean now that he is married will he turn things around?” She gave me some real meaningful answers. I now know he has a chance to do just that.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 3, 2022 6:27 pm
Reply to  aplumley

Doesn’t matter in my opinion. What is he supposed to do? Play basketball 24/7 and magically find a decent defensive ability?

He is going to be the same player he has always been until he decides to change his game. He doesn’t need more time on the court.

aplumley
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September 3, 2022 6:35 pm

While defense is mostly about effort and mindset, 3 point shooting is absolutely about reps.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 3, 2022 6:40 pm
Reply to  aplumley

He has a ton of possible improvements. He shoots plenty of basketballs. Getting married did not kill his opportunity to shoot a basketball. Last year he gained muscle to get better but he still sucked ass. Married and being the worlds strongest man have nothing to do with Fox and his game.

Can he play off the ball in a catch a shoot type of play? It is his style of play that makes three point shots difficult. He has to decide to play that role.

RikSmits
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September 4, 2022 9:47 am
Reply to  aplumley

I really dislike how overused that trope is. Hard to stick percentages to it, but I would say effort and mindset is barely 50% of defense.

Spatial awareness, defensive BBIQ and actual talent/skills are just as important, if not more important
If you see how Davion freezes guys trying to set picks with footwork and body fakes, that’s a thing of beauty and a clinic in itself. Most of the time, it looks as if Fox is clueless once a pick comes his way. It’s painful to watch, once you pay attention to it.

And a season going up against Davion in practice didn’t change much in his defensive approach, despite what some folks here predicted. Will Brown hold Fox accountable on D? I hope so.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 5:15 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Helps if you at least know which side of the floor to try and force the opposing playing towards. Like maybe the sidelines instead of leaving the middle wide open for lay ups and dunks.

It is a fact that some fourth grade rec teams understand this better than Fox.

eddie41
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September 3, 2022 7:14 pm
Reply to  aplumley

I hope tony had the common decency to wait until his honeymoon was over to post this critique.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 3, 2022 7:18 pm
Reply to  eddie41

He stated clearly that this team is playoff contender. That is a gift.

catterj
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September 4, 2022 8:52 am
Reply to  aplumley

I think the overall positive summer may help him. It’s been said that the retention of Bagley and Buddy coming into last season may have led to Fox partially being checked out or at least disappointed to start the season. Those guys clearly wanted out. I can’t think of anyone feeling similarly right now. If Barnes does, he will keep it on the DL.

I’m hoping his wedding, honeymoon, and anything else good leads to a strong start.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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September 3, 2022 4:48 pm

I think another question may be if Fox doesn’t hit out of the gate and comes in sluggish, plays poorly, or can’t hit from 3 at a respectable rate, then what does Monte do?

If there is not a noticeable change from Fox with the addition of Coach Brown, Sabonis, and the best supporting cast he’s had, then is he still part of the Kings future?

Truth be told, I can’t think of too many players who raised their game from sub-all-star to cornerstone piece 6 seasons into their career. The vast majority of players are who they are 6 years as a pro.

murraytant
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September 3, 2022 5:56 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

you are mostly correct. Most real good players show their talent early- within 2-3 years even. But there are some late bloomers- DeRozen, LaVine, Dejonte, to name a few. But these guys do not rise to the very top. Hope that Fox’s slow rise (if he rises) is due to poor team, too many coaches and temporary lack of focus. There have been times where he played as a top tier PG- but too infrequent. There are quite a few quality lead guards in the West. He is close but not there (yet)
While it is possible for the Kings to excel without an All Star, that is rare.
I am interested in Murray’s rise- will he rise faster than Fox or will he just plateau? There are some excellent SF/PF guys who had less of a pedigree than him – PG3, K. Leonard, Khris Middleton- so he could do that well.
Hope beats in all Kings hearts.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 3, 2022 6:34 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

Fox is an over paid point guard that is a good athlete. Problem is that he has done nothing beyond being a good athlete.

I think he decides if he wants to do what it takes to win or collect a check. So far all he has is a bank account full of money.

Jack
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September 4, 2022 7:04 am

After the all star break: 29.3PPG, 4.0RPG, 7.5APR, 1.2 SPG, 50%, 37.3%. Not bad for a human being. Next to blood what in the world do you guys want?

BestHyperboleEver
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September 4, 2022 8:59 am
Reply to  Jack

For the sake of context, I feel like we should point out that Fox played 11 games after the All-Star break.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 9:24 am
Reply to  Jack

Consistent effort. Attempt to play defense. Leadership. Do something other than dribble out the clock and drive into four other players for a bad shot.

Jack
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September 4, 2022 2:33 pm

At almost 30 points a game and to me just as important is those 7.5 assists. I wound’t say that was dribbling out the clock and shooting bad shots.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 5:17 pm
Reply to  Jack

He does it when the game is on the line almost every time. He doesn’t know what to do other than the pound the ball into the floor. Use his quick first step. Then pray.

Jack
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September 4, 2022 5:40 pm

I remember when he was shooting a free throw. Oh. I bet Metu would appreciate a one time assist.There were some others. Too many to apply here.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 5:48 pm
Reply to  Jack

We can agree to disagree. Fox has some moments but he is not in anyway considered a basketball savant. This team has done more dumb stuff on an NBA court than most. The point guard kind of has something to do with that.

TheGrantNapear
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September 4, 2022 6:45 pm
Reply to  Jack

Next to blood what in the world do you guys want?

Perhaps win games?

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 11:43 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Unheard of and obscenely absurd expectation.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 3, 2022 6:22 pm

Sabonis pushes this team out of the darkness not Fox.

The clock is ticking on Sabonis being here.

The question is does Fox have enough to be the player that helps Sabonis win?

sonny
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September 3, 2022 11:44 pm

mindset-wise, NO!

RikSmits
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September 4, 2022 4:32 am

Good point. I think that even with Fox starting slow, if Sabonis and the rest of the new acquisitions all click and play to their potential (big IF), the team may be decent enough to overcome another slow start by Fox.

And I also think that Fox could benefit from not having to be the team leader, and hope that it may actually help elevate his game. Maybe not number-wise, but with better efficiency and better effort on D.

Maximus
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September 4, 2022 11:03 am

When you look at how this team is built, you can see there are many offensive players and very few defensive players. If this team is going to win, it will be because of their offense. If this team is going to have a good offense, the key is really Fox.

You can’t build a good offense around Sabonis. He can’t be the engine of a good offense. He is a very good connector though.

Kingsguru21
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September 4, 2022 4:31 pm
Reply to  Maximus

You can’t build a good offense around Sabonis. He can’t be the engine of a good offense. He is a very good connector though.

I agree. Or at least not without alot of help. He needs a guy who can create his own shot without him on a consistent basis. That’s why I think the pairing has a chance to work. Even though they occupy similar areas on the court, they do it so differently it matters little IMO. And I think we’ll see those wrinkles put in.

It’ll be interesting to see how effective they can be as a pairing this year. And whether their different styles can produce high caliber offense with all the shooting around them.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 4:54 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Building an offense around a connector is a pretty good idea. Only a few teams have done it before.

Sabonis rebounds and scores pretty well for a connector. Call him whatever you want he knows team basketball and wants to win.

Maximus
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September 4, 2022 10:22 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

It’ll be interesting to see how effective they can be as a pairing this year.

I think they are a good pair. Honestly, as long as Fox is paired with a quality roll man, the offense should be at least decent.

I remember the fun year of 2018-2019 when Fox was paired with WCS. In 2020-2021, the pairing of Fox and Holmes results 12th ranked offense in the league, and career years from Fox and Holmes.

While Sabonis is not as good as a roll finisher as Holmes, he is excellent as setting screens and he can pass in short rolls. The offense is going to be very dynamic.

Kingsguru21
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September 5, 2022 8:48 am
Reply to  Maximus

Honestly, as long as Fox is paired with a quality roll man,

This is where Keegan Murray comes in, me thinks. There’s a world where because Mitchell is now traded, and because there’s a possibility the Kings move Barnes and Holmes both, the rotation looks rather different.

Normally September trades surprise me as teams are usually done by that point, but this year is a bit odd in how the Gobert/Durant/Mitchell/Murray dynamic changed how teams view trades around the league.

That said this:

While Sabonis is not as good as a roll finisher as Holmes, he is excellent as setting screens and he can pass in short rolls. The offense is going to be very dynamic.

I agree on this possibility. Creativity both on the coaching staff and on Sabonis/Fox’s parts will be essential to making this a very good and possibly great offense. Strangely enough, I don’t think the key will be how many 3’s either shoot. Fox’s real improvement will be just be hitting his FT’s at a mid 80’s clip (which would result in a massive jump in efficiency) and better defense. For Sabonis, he needs to be more effective creating offense for himself at the elbows than he has been in the past. I think if those things happen, you’re looking at a more dynamic offense with the shooting added.

I remember the fun year of 2018-2019 when Fox was paired with WCS. In 2020-2021, the pairing of Fox and Holmes results 12th ranked offense in the league, and career years from Fox and Holmes.

That’s why I brought up Murray in my first paragraph. Even though he’s a rookie, I think he’s got the potential to be good right away just because he seems to have the right combination of mental makeup and maturity. Plus he seems have to all the different types of skills and whatnot to work in a PnR offense with Fox. Particularly in a Pick n Pop scenario immediately.

I look at a team like Portland, and I think back to the early years of Dame. In that first year, the starting 5 was LaMarcus Aldridge, JJ Hickson, Nicolas Batum, Wes Matthews and Damian Lillard. That team won 33 games and had a ORtg that was 15th and DRtg that was 26th. Next year, the only real thing that was dramatically different was the Blazers swapping out Hickson for Robin Lopez. That team won 54 games with a 2nd ranked ORtg and 16th DRtg.

De’Aaron isn’t Dame, nor is Domas LMA for that matter. I think Murray will have a bigger impact than McCollum did his rookie year, but that’s probably just optimism. Anything’s possible with rookies. But I like what Murray does overall, and his shot blocking or lack of it isn’t a concern for me personally. I think there’s a lot of reasons to believe Keegan Murray can be a 26-28 MPG guy right out of the gate more on merit than being a high pick and that alone makes me very optimistic. De’Aaron Fox was a tick under 28MPG his rookie year. Marvin Bagley was a tick over 25 MPG his rookie year. Tyrese was at 30 MPG his rookie season. Davion was a tick under 28 MPG himself last year (obviously with that big push at the end).

The last time Fox had a guy who could really clog the paint like WCS, who basically averaged 12 points, 8.5 boards, 2.5 assists to 1 TOV….was WCS. I enjoy Richaun Holmes, but the Kings weren’t horrible on defense that year. They were 16th in ORtg and 20th on DRtg. I know Sabonis isn’t WCS in any way, but his rebounding is better. That alone gives the Kings a shot in the mid pack portion of the NBA in DRtg this year. In 2020, the Pacers were 13th in DRtg with Turner and Sabonis in the middle and Nate McMillan as head coach. In 2021, they were 13th again under Bjorkgren.

So I think there’s plenty of reason to believe that this team can figure out an 18-22nd level DRtg and a top 7-8 ORtg given the personnel. The trick will be how to optimize everyone, but that’s always the case IMO. It’s always a work in progress, too, keeping guys happy. What I like is I think there are multiple two man actions within the potential starting lineup (Fox-Huerter-Barnes-Murray-Sabonis) and I like the combinations Brown has to work with off the bench splicing, mixing and matching, whatever, as well.

That’s a long way of saying I agree. 🙂

Last edited 26 days ago by Kingsguru21
Maximus
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September 5, 2022 9:50 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Lol, it is long.

an 18-22nd level DRtg and a top 7-8 ORtg

Yes I am hoping for this. I think their OFFRTG can get to 113 (which should be in the top 10).

Hopefully, we can improve the DEFRTG to 112 (which is at the range you noted). That give a NETRTG of +1, which is somewhere in the low 40s wins.

Kingsguru21
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September 5, 2022 2:14 pm
Reply to  Maximus

I meant to write that in concise fashion, but I missed it long and ended up in Oregon instead. Bad habits, man.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 4:52 pm
Reply to  Maximus

Has been on offense only team for almost two decades now. That is painfully obvious. In my opinion Sabonis is the key. Simply look at how they played with Sabonis and without Sabonis last year. Yes, Fox and Sabonis can and do play off of each other. I think there are plenty of other role players that can play similarly with Sabonis.

Sabonis is a player a team can build around. Fox has shown that he is not the centerpiece of a team. Sabonis goes and this team is worse. Sabonis stays and Fox leaves this team still has potential to do something positive.

Maximus
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September 4, 2022 10:12 pm

It is very tough to build a good offense around a big unless he is an offensive genius like Embiid or Jokic.

In order for an offense to run through a big, he has to have the ball at the elbow (triple threat position) or in the low post.
Let us take a look at some numbers that may give you an idea why it is hard to build around Sabonis.

https://go.nba.com/3l56h
This is elbow touches. Sabonis almost rivals Jokic in terms of shot frequency and efficiency, and pass frequency and efficiency. However, the major difference between them is the turnover % where Jokic is 4.1% and Sabonis is 6.2%.

https://go.nba.com/ktlto
This is low post possession. Embiid leads the pack in frequency. Jokic leads in efficiency. Sabonis is average in frequency but pretty bad in efficiency. And Sabonis is very turnover-prone in the post.

Sabonis is pretty much maxed out in elbow touches and limited in low post touches because of how much he turns over the ball. You can build an offense around him but it is not going to be a good one. Nevertheless, you can occasionally run the offense through him by putting him at the elbow. Some other occasional stuffs that you can do is an inverted P&R in which Sabonis is the ball handler. Or run dribble hand off like the Warriors in which Sabonis is one of the handlers.

The main weapon for this team should be the P&R in which Fox is the ball handler. One thing for sure is that team will be very diverse offensively.

One last thing, Sabonis cannot be the anchor of a good defense. So you can’t build a good defense if Sabonis is your anchor. Another reason why if he is your best player, you better off tear down your team and start a rebuild (just like how the Pacers did).

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 11:40 pm
Reply to  Maximus

So why was he the one creating ball movement when he put on a Kings jersey? Isn’t that the point guard’s job?

He puts up plenty of points and rebounds along with his assists.

Which player quit for the majority of the season?

Was is the savior point guard or the big that actually produces?

Duncan, Kareem, Olajuwon, Shaq…..a lot bigs had offenses built around them.

Maybe this addresses what you said? It was too long to decipher.

Maximus
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September 5, 2022 9:42 am

The modern era of basketball is different from the past. Guys that are proficient in the post and carry their team offense nowadays are only Embiid and Jokic, These guys are monsters though, Sabonis is far from them.

Anway, Sabonis is going to be given a decent load of offensive responsibility.

Jack
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September 4, 2022 2:34 pm

It takes two to tangle.

Hamlet1989
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September 4, 2022 8:28 am

Didn’t mention a lot of superstar guards struggled to adjust at the beginning of last season, I have nothing but optimism for Fox, and I consider this much ado over basically nothing.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 9:47 am
Reply to  Hamlet1989

Do you put Fox in the superstar guard category?

rockbottom
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September 4, 2022 10:39 am
Reply to  Hamlet1989

Superstar ? Not yet by a long shot . Hope he proves he could be one this season .

Jack
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September 4, 2022 2:36 pm
Reply to  rockbottom

Doesn’t necessarily have to be a superstar. To me being a team player means more.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 4:46 pm
Reply to  Jack

Fact

Fox needs to be a team player that plays hard all season.

TheGrantNapear
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September 4, 2022 6:47 pm
Reply to  rockbottom

6 years in and hasn’t made an all star team but somehow he’ll evolve into a superstar 😊

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 8:26 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

All the potential in the world. So glad they gave him a max deal before they had to.

RobHessing
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September 4, 2022 10:53 am

Fox has been in the middle tier of starting NBA point guards. That won’t get it done. He needs to put together a full season of his best 30 days.

AnybodyButBagley
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September 4, 2022 4:56 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

…..and learn to play off of the ball when his game isn’t any good.

Marty
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September 4, 2022 9:14 pm

Y’all going to hope he magically transforms right up until the end.

RobHessing
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September 4, 2022 10:10 pm
Reply to  Marty

Nothing wrong with hope, especially if you’re a Kings fan. It’s more problematic if you’re an employee of the Kings front office.

Kingsguru21
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September 5, 2022 9:01 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Honest question: Do you think the FO is hoping Fox will improve? Or, rather, give him the tools he needs to succeed and putting the rest of his improvement on him?

The reason I ask is I keep coming back to something (I think Will asked Jerry on one of their recent pod’s–but it might have been Tony–either way it was a good question) Jerry said about Fox and how much of the lack of success is on the organization or Fox himself. I don’t know that I agree with Jerry’s answer of 80% on Fox, but I do think it’s closer to half and half. Fox has his issue’s, no question, and even though I’m a fan it’s impossible to overlook them.

So my question is: Do you think the FO is hoping Fox will improve? Or do you think it’s possible they are trying to do their part to take away all the excuses for Fox? Because I see a lot of that as the latter myself.

RobHessing
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September 5, 2022 10:13 am
Reply to  Kingsguru21

If they are a smart front office, they are trying to figure out a way to maximize his productivity & value, thus making him more valuable not only to the Kings but across the league. Part of that is getting better players around him, but a large part of it is Fox elevating his game.

I once had a golf instructor that said it was not about making my good shots better, but that it was about making my bad shots less egregious. That is, raising the floor of my game and attaining greater consistency. That’s what Fox needs to do, and much more on the defensive end than the offensive end. In fact, when he is less than stellar offensively is when he especially needs to step up his defensive effort.

Kingsguru21
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September 5, 2022 12:23 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Let’s say Fox’s 3pt% is around 35% on 4 attempts per game. Otherwise his usage is similar to previous seasons, and his FT% is up to 80%.

His DRtg on the season is around 112, his ORtg is closer to 116 or 118. That has to dramatically increase his value, doesn’t it?

For reference, Darius Garland was at 112 ORtg and DRtg last season. Ja Morant was at 116 ORtg 111 DRtg. Chris Paul was at 124 ORtg 107 DRtg. Steph Curry was at 115 ORtg 108 DRtg. Dejounte Murray is at 113 ORtg 108 DRtg (with SA). Trae Young was at 119 ORtg 118 DRtg. Kyrie Irving was at 117 ORtg 114 DRtg.

While I’m not calling anything a guarantee, I do think this group offers De’Aaron Fox the best chance of his entire career to be a productive two way player.

Marty
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September 5, 2022 12:01 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

I think they’ve outkicked their coverage and gave the keys to a very good, not great player. Since superstars won’t come here it’s literally the best they can do as an organization.

Last edited 26 days ago by Marty Marty
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September 5, 2022 2:05 pm
Reply to  Marty

If they are smart Sabonis is carrying the keys.

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