What sort of NBA player is De’Aaron Fox? Over the last five years, the Sacramento Kings have been hoping and praying for unquestionable stardom, which has yet to happen, while others around the league have viewed him as nothing more than a solid starting point guard who will never top out as a number one option on a contending team. In their most recent player rankings, CBS and ESPN certainly trended toward the latter option, placing Fox 57th and 54th overall respectively, a far cry from where anyone in Sacramento would wish De’Aaron to land.
As is often the case in these sorts of debates, the truth around Fox’s place in the league likely lies somewhere in the middle. He has yet to show the abilities of a true NBA star, but he’s also far better than a typical, average, everyday starting point guard. He’s not definitively good enough to be labeled a star, but he’s also not definitively average enough to be entirely dismissed from the conversation either.
So how does Fox break through that ceiling of an NBA star? Perhaps more important than any one skill or aspect of his game is his consistency. As has been well-documented over the last few years, De’Aaron tends to start fairly slowly, finds his rhythm in the middle of the season, and then accelerates toward the end. That’s not how stars operate. His baseline must be good, his average must be very good, and his occasional ceiling must be great, as opposed to what we witnessed last season.
The good news for Fox and those that believe in his destiny as the guy for this franchise is that he’s shown plenty of glimpses of that possibility; one needs to look no further than his performance in the post-Haliburton trade last year. In the Sabonis era, Fox dominated just about everyone on the floor, putting up 28.9 points per game, along with almost 7 assists, while knocking down 38% of his three-point attempts. That scoring binge propelled him to 14th in the league in points per game during that span, and more importantly, he executed at that level on a nearly nightly basis. Considering that prior to Domantas’ arrival, Fox’s best on-court partner was either a rookie in Tyrese Haliburton or the solid role player that is Harrison Barnes, his explosion in production is understandable with an actual star playing alongside him.
Of course, a 16-game hot streak cannot make up for a half-decade of almost, but not quite, and that’s where De’Aaron must step up, not for a span, but for a season. The Kings finally found him a relevant partner, they’ve secured a qualified head coach, and have built the roster to prop up his weaknesses on the offensive end of the floor. With all of those factors in line, Fox must find consistency on a night-to-night, week-to-week, and month-to-month basis, or the building blocks around him will simply crumble, and the Kings will once again be vying for a top lottery selection.
De’Aaron Fox can be a star in this league, but this upcoming season is a critical juncture in that journey. It’s extremely rare for NBA players to blossom into number one options six-plus years into their careers, and most of those are big men who took time to get comfortable or were injured. De’Aaron Fox is none of those things. In fact, over the last 20 years, of the 61 NBA guards who have been selected to the All-Star Team, only four have appeared for their first time after year six and have appeared in multiple All-Star games during their career. The exceptions to that rule being Chauncey Billups, Rip Hamilton, Kyle Lowry, and Zach LaVine, with LaVine’s later-career stardom having more to do with injuries than ability. The All-Star game certainly isn’t the only defining factor of an NBA star, but if De’Aaron hopes to break through and gain that reputation, it’s a good place to start, and his consistency, not skill set, will define that journey moving forward.