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20Q: Can De’Aaron Fox make another leap?

We kick off 20Q by asking more of the Kings' best player.

Welcome to 20Q, a variation on our usual 30Q series. With the abbreviated time until the season begins, we'll just do 20 questions this season finishing up right before the season begins on December 22nd.

The Sacramento Kings first order of business in free agency was to lock down De'Aaron Fox to a 5-year max extension. Fox is undoubtedly the Kings best player, and the player that Monte McNair will build around in the foreseeable future. That monetary commitment and planned focus is not based on what Fox is today, but rather what the Kings hope he can become.

This isn't to say Fox has done anything wrong. Last season he averaged 21.1 points, 6.8 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. Fox has improved every single season since arriving in Sacramento. But if Fox were to plateau it would be a letdown. Fox is good, but the Kings hope he can be great. At just 22 years old, with elite speed and the ability to operate in control even when playing fast, Fox has the ability to be a star in the league.

Expectations for this season are low, or at least they should be. Losing Bogdan Bogdanovic hurts the Kings talent level and depth, and Tyrese Haliburton is unlikely to be ready to fill that gap as a rookie. The Kings will, in all likelihood, be taking a step back this season. But if, and it's a big if, the Kings take a step forward this season it will almost certainly be because Fox has taken another big step forward.

The Bubble gave us a glimpse of what that might look like. Fox played in just six games in Orlando, so this naturally comes with the Small Sample Size Institute's seal of approval, but in those six games Fox averaged 26.2 points, 7.3 assists, 2.5 rebounds, and 1.7 steals. The rebounds dipped, but the scoring and assists were both far higher than his season averages.

If Fox could average 26 and 7 over a full year, it would a tremendous leap. Even at 25 points and 7 assists, that puts Fox at a statistical level only met by LeBron James, Russell Westbrook, Luka Doncic, Trae Young, Damian Lillard, and James Harden. It would securely place Fox among the league's top guards.

Perhaps this is too lofty a goal, but Fox will be just 23 years old this season and has seen a marked improvement every single year. Personally, I believe Fox will continue to improve even if he doesn't average 25 or 26 points per game, but I'm willing to get my hopes up. Fox has been the one player over the last three years who hasn't let us down.

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Klam
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
Nostradumbass 18
Nostradumbass 19
December 1, 2020 10:37 am

The “Q” series is back??? So the NBA is just around the corner???
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Jman1949
December 1, 2020 10:55 am
Reply to  Klam

The Q is back and the season will follow anon!

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Kosta
December 1, 2020 11:46 am
Reply to  Jman1949

I’ll open the gate if you bring the pizza!

Speaking of which, if the Kings could partner with Pizza Guys on doing something like this I might actually buy a Pizza Guys pizza once again. (I’d give away the pizza and keep the box–they both taste like cardboard)
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Last edited 1 month ago by Kosta
ZillersCat
December 1, 2020 1:16 pm
Reply to  Kosta

Plus one if it can be done with marbles 🙂
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Roaddog
December 1, 2020 11:01 am

I think this boils down to his shooting. Same as it was pre-draft. That’s the cap on his ceiling right now. Do we think he improved enough in a few months at that skill to become noticeably better at it? Really hard to say in these times how much access he even had to hoops and coaches, but hopefully.

Ellimist
December 1, 2020 11:50 am
Reply to  Roaddog

I agree that shooting ability may limit his ultimate ceiling, but I think there’s still room for growth even if his shooting doesn’t come around. For example, his averages in the bubble included 22% from 3… If he can sustain that level of play with such paltry shooting, it’d be fair to say he improved.

If he can then add 36% shooting to that next level, we’re talking all-nba talent.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 2:11 pm
Reply to  Ellimist

De’Aaron shot 37% from 3 in his sophomore year. Then he plummetted to 29% last season despite up his attempts from 2.9 to 3.6 3’s per game.

I think Fox can be a 40% three point shooter. His mechanics are solid and his speed enables him to get any defender to back up, so he is almost always shooting open threes. For whatever reason, he could not get his rhythm from deep except for a few infrequent hot streaks.

The thing that is interesting about Fox is he improved his overall scoring efficiency from Year 2 to Year 3 from TS% 54.4% to 56%. This is despite regressing from 3s and the FT line (73% to 70%).

Fox proved he is lethal getting to the hoop and showed a nice runner in the lane when he could not get all the way to the cup. This coincides with his increased strength which enables him to take contact and stay on focus and balance.

Over three seasons, he has gone from 43% to 48% to 53.5% on two point FGs and this corresponds in my mind to increasing strength. There was a video of him dead lifting 500 pounds so this bodes well.

Reachable targets are 77% FTs 38% on 3s and maintain two point accuracy. That would get him to 25 PPG without increase in usage. I would like to see Fox increase his defensive impact, and I expect we will see that. Fox was 16th in steals last year, I think he can be Top 5.

Kingsguru21
December 1, 2020 2:39 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

If De’Aaron makes just 21 more of his attempts (and he attempted 342 FT’s and made 241 last season), he’s at 77% for hitting his FT’s. His TS% goes up by a full percentage point to 56.8% (from 55.8% last season).

You want some fun numbers? Use De’Aaron’s 3pt% from his 2nd season last year with his total attempts. That TS% with the 77 FT% and the 37% 3pt% number is now at 59.1 TS%. Of course doing that means he would “only” jump up to 22.4 PPG.

But that would still be pretty damn good if you are talking about a guy getting 7-8 assists a night.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:06 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Agree. Fox is not an unknown. His performance curve has steadily risen since Day One, amidst these variations when you look at the particular statistical breakkdon.

To me, he was a star and franchise player from Day 1 who was always going to exceed DeMarcus Cousins as long as he added the requiste strength to his frame. He’s done that, and that was predictable too because he was a good kid with a good head on his shoulders who we knew was going to work hard.

So when we talk about 20Q for this team, De’Aaron is the LAST guy of whom I have questions. I have about 5-10 other questions and concerns before I get to Fox.

When it gets to the point where said player makes the game look easy, that is when you don’t have to worry too much. And Fox pretty much makes the game look easy most of the time. There are not many players who can easily score 20 PPG and he’s at that level.

I guess it is valid to ask the question if he can make the jump, but his progression if predicated on experience and strength, and those variables are taking care of themselves.

As an aside, this is the same challenge Haliburton will face: adding strength and gaining experience. Fox will be a great example for him to model.

Kingsguru21
December 1, 2020 5:28 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Great comment and agree about Rese modeling his growth curve after Swipa. Makes sense to me.

RORDOG
December 1, 2020 5:42 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

This is my quarterly request for a website that tracks free throw splits. It is my long held belief that Fox’s FT% on the first of two attempts is significantly lower than the second, and he should do the Steve Nash shot visualization thing before his first free throw attempt when he gets to the line.

Kingsguru21
December 2, 2020 7:20 am
Reply to  RORDOG

I’ll make one for you if I get to punch you in the face.

RikSmits
December 1, 2020 11:03 am

Love the Q series, even if we got cheated out of 10 Q’s!

This is a great season to really focus on some of Fox’s weaknesses, especially his long shot and FT%. If he could focus on fighting over screens as well, that would be great.

RobHessing
December 1, 2020 11:09 am

Take charge, young man. You can start with your first meeting with Whiteside –
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Last edited 1 month ago by RobHessing
RikSmits
December 1, 2020 11:29 am
Reply to  RobHessing

Who are ya callin’ grandma?
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Last edited 1 month ago by RikSmits
Kosta
December 1, 2020 11:39 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Larry Johnson is old enough to be a grandpapa now!

andy_sims
December 1, 2020 11:48 am

My take is that a not-insignificant part of Fox’s improvement last season had to do with him finally getting calls when he’s fouled around the rim. He bumped up his FTA to 6.7 per game last season, and he’s trended up each year since arriving. I don’t know if he’ll ever get to a Kevin Martin level of trips to the foul line, but since blowing by defenders to get shots in the paint is a strength, more free throw attempts will add up to good things. (But he does need to get his percentage of makes above 75%,)

Related but off-topic: I think it’s crap that it takes a guy three years or more to get by-the-rules foul calls, just because he’s new in the league. It’s a foul or it isn’t, years in the league or star status shouldn’t be anywhere near that calculus.

Ellimist
December 1, 2020 11:57 am
Reply to  andy_sims

I do think Fox needs to learn how to be more subtle about being the creator of contact in the lane, and I think his over-aggression in finding that contact hurt him in other situations when he was actually fouled. But I agree, some of the non-calls in the bubble (and against top-10 teams in general) were pretty outrageous.

BabalooMagoo
December 1, 2020 12:59 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Agreed on the FT%. If he could make it to about 80% or so and bump up his assists/gm to maybe 7.5 I’d consider that a great step going forward.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 2:24 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

It is not an accident he finally started getting calls. Like I mentioned above his increase in strength allows him to play through contact and even look to initiate contact.

I agree that he sometimes gets a raw deal from the refs but getting the line more has to do primarily with being more physically mature and being at less of a strength deficit.

Otis
December 1, 2020 4:32 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

No doubt. Look at the way IT used to aggressively seek contact around the basket – comparing it to De’Aaron in his first two seasons is revealing. I always felt Fox was trying to contort around contact to an extent. Not so much last season.

Going from 4.9 to 7.6 to 10.2 FTA per 100 possessions is no joke. It’s how he managed to bump his TS% even though his percentage from three declined precipitously.

Even if he just maintains that rate of getting to the line, improving to 75%+ from the line and 35%+ from three would make him an extremely dangerous man.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:35 pm
Reply to  Otis

It would make him a 25 PPG scorer, which would be a natural progression. I also think if Haliburton is really good for us it will help Fox to play off the ball more and that will help him as a scorer.

I don’t know if other fans agree but the sooner we can move past Joseph, the better. He’s a zero if I am being harsh, an over-dribbling overpay, a neutral player at best, and I have no use for neutral-at-best players.

When did we ever see Cory and Fox in the backcourt and think “wow that is really effective”, said no one ever. So since they are not naturally compatible, and since we are building around Fox, the sooner we move on from Joseph, the better.

Are there Kings fans who can set sentimentality aside like I can? I was HAPPY to bid farewell and best wished to Harry and I will be happier the day Jospeh is gone.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:55 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Means nothing.

RORDOG
December 1, 2020 6:05 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Maybe. Or, it could mean the team performs better when Fox is paired with a defensive minded, secondary playmaker in the backcourt. You’re probably right though. It’s probably just a coincidence they felt like Haliburton would be a good fit next to Fox.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 6:24 pm
Reply to  RORDOG

Cory Joseph is not a playmaker. He pounds the ball, he overdribbles, he is methodical half court guy who, at his best, helps you to lose respectfully.

To be a playmaker you have be a scoring threat. You have to have juke moves to get yours. Then you draw the defense and dish. He’s not that guy. He’s not an athlete with size or speed.

He has played better since he was originally acquired when he was noticeably fat and slow but if you are “hitching your wagon” to this guy, it is not going to end well.

I do not have the statistical evidence, but I would contend that when the Kings went with a lineup of Cory and Fox in the backcourt it was when they were behind or when it was garbage time and opponent could afford to relax, hence the stat you cite.

This the rule I like to apply….

When a player is clearly not part of the solution, he is likely the part of the problem. Since Joseph is clearly not part of the solution, I cannot include him in part of the solution. He has no leg speed, his shot is unreliable, he fooled Vlade and is laughing all the way to the bank.

But just because a fired GM was fooled does not mean we have to be fooled too. If Cory is in the rotation this year, our season is going to be trash. It means something went wrong yet again.

andy_sims
December 2, 2020 10:03 am
Reply to  kings4ever

Ah, that’s why Sacramento lost so many games last season. It was Cory Joseph’s fault.

andy_sims
December 2, 2020 10:01 am
Reply to  RORDOG

You and your facts.

Obviously, there’s no priority to get CoJo minutes, but he’s the best defender at the guard position on the roster, and by quite a lot. I think that Halliburton will start as a pretty good defender, and improve as he learns.

There’s really no question that Fox has all the tools to be a lockdown guy, but your offense will suffer if he has to continually defend the opponent’s best player. Someone has to do the dirty work, and CoJo is the only guy who’s proven that he’s willing and able. Hopefully, Halliburton gets up to speed quickly, and Fox shows that he’s taken a step toward being a better defender.

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andy_sims
December 2, 2020 12:47 pm
Reply to  Otis

IT was small, but rock-solid with his physique. It made him much more effective around the rim than he ought to have been.

Adamsite
Nostradumbass 14
Nostradumbass 14
December 1, 2020 12:12 pm

His assist numbers are obviously going to go down because Walton is going to have Buddy run the offense. Duh.

Kosta
December 1, 2020 12:37 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

I’m laughing and crying at the same time….

itsjabby
December 1, 2020 12:41 pm
Reply to  Adamsite

reported

SMF-PDXConnection
December 1, 2020 12:56 pm

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Kingsguru21
December 1, 2020 1:14 pm

There was much talk about the stretch they went 13-7. In fact, that was supposedly the source of optimism. The Kings as a whole had a 113.5 ORtg and a 111.3 DRtg according to NBA.com. (Here are the traditional numbers.) That was the highlight of the year.

De’Aaron in that timeframe had a 30.1 USG%, 56.4 TS%, 9.9 TOV% among other things. With a 113.9 ORtg and a 114.0 DRtg.
Hield had a 27.1 USG%, 64.1 TS%, 9.2 TOV% with a 112.7 ORtg and 107.9 DRtg.
Barnes had a 16.1 USG%, 61.4 TS%, 8.5 TOV% with a 113.4 ORtg and 113.9 DRtg.
Bogdanovich had a 19.3 USG%, 58.9 TS% with a 113.1 ORtg and a 112.7 DRtg.

Obviously you have Bazemore, Len, Giles, Joseph and Bjelica in there……but the biggest takeaway for me was just how little of a disparity in Net Rtg you had among your top players…and how big it was for the entire bench unit of Hield, Bazemore, Len, Giles, and Joseph. Playing a number of bad teams in that stretch helped, too.

But that team had depth, it didn’t have great stars. Until De’Aaron started scoring the ball at a much higher clip which made a big difference. He started taking 16 shots a game along with nearly 8 FTA over that 20 game stretch. Along with a 2.5 AST/TO ratio to boot. Which is hardly nothing to sneeze at.

Last year De’Aaron also had the highest eFG% by a percentage and half points over the previous season. Despite shooting a percentage point worse LESS at the line and 8 percentage points worse from 3. His TS% despite these factors went up over a percentage point. How? He got better everywhere from 2. If that improvement from 3 shows up like it did last season from 2 or just a return to the percentage he shot from 3 in season 2…..I like the chances of De’Aaron Fox living up to his max deal.

Needless to say I’m interested to see how he performs this season.

BestHyperboleEver
December 1, 2020 1:39 pm

I’m not sure we’re doing a great job of rating performance here. He was probably better pre-bubble than in bubble. He was certainly much better immediately pre-bubble than in the bubble. Fox’s PPG and APG went up in the bubble because he dominated the ball more. He took more than 4 additional shots per game and increased his USG over the pre-bubble season. Not that we need reminding, but the Kings went 1-5 in his games in the bubble with the 2nd worst NetRTG (-7.3) above only the Wizards.

The point being, that Fox taking another leap isn’t going to depend on him playing to his bubble level. If it happens, it will be based on a jump in scoring efficiency (individual and impact on team) and defense.

Timmy_13
December 1, 2020 2:50 pm

I agree with you and I do hope Fox takes that “leap” but my main concern of building around him is that he is more of a secondary all-star player than a franchise superstar. Good enough to get us in the playoffs in his prime but not good enough to be the number one in a championship team. And this goes back to my earlier comment about his (super) max which I thought was a bit of a gamble and a bit premature – but it is what we get for being a small market team. We may have overpaid a little bit.

This is why it’s imperative that the Kings need to be really bad the next two seasons so we have a chance at a Cade Cunningham or Emoni Bates/Vic Wembenyama.

Jman1949
December 1, 2020 2:40 pm

Second round pick Woodard has been signed:

Jman1949
December 1, 2020 2:54 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

A little more info

Kingsguru21
December 1, 2020 2:59 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

This is huge for the Kings. What a shock: Monte who obviously was a big part of the Houston FO is doing similar things now he’s in Sacramento.

Chandler Parsons — remember him — signed a 4 year deal with Houston after being picked in the 2nd round in similar fashion.

A very interesting off-season just got more interesting.

MichaelMack
December 1, 2020 3:38 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

That really is good news. I am liking quite a bit of what has happened so far, at the very least decisions seem thoughtful.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:59 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

Thats good, now lets give something similar Ramsey, the kid is a BALLER.

ForKingsandCountry
December 1, 2020 7:34 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

This is really good news and locks up a potential asset for the next 4 years. If he provides any positive on court contribution the contract is basically a huge value.

Last edited 1 month ago by ForKingsandCountry
Kingsguru21
December 1, 2020 7:55 pm

This gives the Kings the potential to either work out an extension with Woodard before year 4 ends OR offer him a QO after year 3 and make him a RFA.

Love this move by Monte. Of all the moves made, it’s my 2nd favorite of the offseason to locking in Fox for that 5th year.

Quietly a very effective offseason for Monte. The Kings might not win a whole bunch (can see them going 4-12 in the Pacific alone) but the groundwork is being laid for better days ahead IMO.

ForKingsandCountry
December 1, 2020 9:43 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

Yeah I’ve seen a couple other teams (I know Memphis did it with Tillman) do this with their high second round guys and I was hoping the Kings would do this for Woodard as well. I agree about the ground work being laid right now. I feel like this franchise might be in competent hands for the first time during Vivek’s tenure.

Kingsguru21
December 2, 2020 7:22 am

I feel like this franchise might be in competent hands for the first time during Vivek’s tenure.

I agree. And I don’t know what to do with my hands.

YoungSuperteam
December 1, 2020 2:55 pm

Fox averaged 24.5/3.0/6.4 in 15 games post All Star break. He did this shooting 27% from 3. Additionally, he ONLY averaged 32.0 MPG tied for 48th in the league.

I expect the minutes per game to increase 2-4 MPG. I see no reason our franchise player can’t play around 35.0 MPG. I also expect a faster pace and for him to shoot better than 27% from 3.

With all of this information and a new max contract solidifying his role as our guy, I genuinely believe Fox can average 25/4/7 next season. I wouldn’t be that shocked to see him getting 8 assists per game either.

Jman1949
December 1, 2020 4:45 pm

And here we go:

Luke Walton was asked directly if Hield was going to jump back in with the first team, but the Kings’ coach maneuvered around the subject.

“With this training camp, this is part of what we have to see — What do we have? What groups are playing well together? Who compliments who?” Walton said in his first media session of the preseason on Tuesday. “At the end of the day, every decision that gets made, will again, come down to what I feel as the head coach is best for this team, giving us the best chance of winning.”

BestHyperboleEver
December 1, 2020 5:18 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

Geez, Luke. The coaching is bad enough, but mistaking who/whom? Using the passive voice? A run-on, Luke? Seriously? A run-on?!?! That’s it. Fire this guy.

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:51 pm

YES!

kings4ever
December 1, 2020 5:50 pm
Reply to  Jman1949

When coaches had the chance to prove their mettle in the Bubble, unique challenging circumstances to prepare for all involved, Walton led his team to anemic 1-5. We had the 8th seed in our grasp, and FOLDED like chumps. It was pathetic and embarassing.

You can say what you want about Buddy, immature, turnover prone, shot happy, sieve defense, but how can you fault Walton for being a BAD coach then fault for Buddy for faulting his BAD coach???

Buddy was awful in the Bubble, total bricklayer who shot us out of games, but Barnes and Bogi were equally awful IIRC, which reflects more on the coach who did not have his team ready to capitalize on a golden opportunity.

Buddy is an elite shooter. Walton is not an elite coach, nowhere close.

So if you are going to choose sides in this “interpersonal conflict”, if it exists, I think the side to choose is clear. Buddy has a definable proven skill. The guy is a baller. What has Walton proven? I submit this coach has proven NOTHING.

BestHyperboleEver
December 1, 2020 7:28 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

Bogi was the Kings’ best player in the bubble.

CoreyBrewersD
December 1, 2020 9:35 pm
Reply to  kings4ever

What you don’t see is Luke, understanding what was happening in the 2020 draft knew we needed to get to the 12 spot to get better. Knowing he could lose his job he still managed to get everyone playing on a different page. When Vlades young super team tried improving in spite of the master plan. Not only did he trick Buddy into playing point, he also talked Marvin out using his other hand risked arrest by putting a banana peel under Marvin’s shoe (again!) Get your Tinfoil hats We only use the highest quality foil at the CBD Haberdashery!!

SelecaoKOJ
December 1, 2020 7:55 pm

I Think second tier is his ceiling. If there was greatness, we would have seen it already. Showing up big against stealth competition is something I have not seen from Fox very often. The other caveat, does he make the players around him better? In the East, he could be an All Star a few times. In The West, I don’t see it happening. Paul, Lillard, Doncic, Harden, and Curry are better in the West. In the East: Kemba, Simmons, Trae, Irving, Lowry are more impactful. Fox is around a Top 9-11 PG in the league.

reydarly
December 1, 2020 9:37 pm
Reply to  SelecaoKOJ

Is it that bad though? And no one is going to build a team around Kyle Lowry. Fox would have looked as impactful or more than Trae if we went all in with him and actually tanked to build around him like the Hawks did. Instead we sat him behind George Hill trying to masquerade as a fringe playoff team. We start him the next season playing to his strengths and had more success than we had had in years. Of all those western guards you named, Doncic is the only one who is not 30+ years old and therefore wont be on the decline if not out the league by the time Fox enters his prime. I say we wait and see on his ceiling because the current top tier point guards are not lebron james and will be declining when Fox should be peaking. The tiering is based off of the talent levels at a given point in time. If he is 23 and a second tier, top 10 pg, why couldn’t he be top tier by the time he is 27 if he keeps improving the way he has?

Ialmostmissthemaloofs
December 1, 2020 11:32 pm

Wait… yaya, that’s all great… But is anyone going to speak to Fox’s new haircut? Or was this previously known about?

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