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
|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.