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Luke Loucks discusses the offseason changes that helped unlock De’Aaron Fox’s shooting

Coach Luke Loucks detailed the work he put in with De'Aaron Fox throughout this offseason.
By | 19 Comments | Nov 27, 2022

Nov 23, 2022; Atlanta, Georgia, USA; Sacramento Kings guard De'Aaron Fox (5) warms up on the court prior to the game against the Atlanta Hawks at State Farm Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

De’Aaron Fox is playing the best basketball of his career. Some of it has to do with the much-improved spacing of Malik Monk, Kevin Huerter, and Keegan Murray. Some of it should be credited to Domantas Sabonis’s ability to create open looks for his guys with stellar screens and impeccable passing for a big man. Some of the credit should go towards Mike Brown and his coaching staff for implementing a culture of ball movement and trust among teammates.

On top of all of that, plenty of credit should be given to De’Aaron Fox and Assistant Coach Luke Loucks for the work they put in this summer which has clearly been paying off. Coach Loucks worked with Coach Mike Brown in Golden State and was hired to join him in Sacramento in early June. It didn’t take long from there for him to be assigned to De’Aaron Fox, partially due to a prebuilt relationship.

Recee Caldwell, De’Aaron Fox’s wife as of August 2022, was familiar with Coach Loucks from their shared time in Golden State and that made for an easy adjustment to Fox and Coach Loucks working together.

“That was one of the things Mike brought up was, ‘Hey, we gotta get your deal done fairly quickly because I want you to go to San Diego and start working with De’Aaron.’ I think Recee (Caldwell) had already reached out to Mike at that point, because she heard I was going to join, and suggested that I work with Fox. Recee was kind of my shadow, one of the years in Golden State, her senior year at Cal while she was a player, she interned with us. So, any free time she would get from school she would come over to our facilities and I was basically in charge of assigning her where to help. A lot of times she would just help me with my workouts and we built a pretty good relationship,” Coach Loucks said. “But, yeah, almost instantaneously Mike was like ‘You gotta get on a plane and go to San Diego and take what our foundation is gonna be and start applying it to his workouts… So, it was pretty quick.”

It was no secret that if De’Aaron Fox could develop a reliable three-point shot, his offensive production would catapult into another realm. Fox knew that he wanted to fine-tune his jump shot this offseason, and after getting together with Coach Loucks, he was happy to oblige and start working.

“He brought it to the table. It was honestly mutual from all sides. Obviously, my big thing with Fox was if he can shoot at a consistent average or above-average level everything else opens up. Teams can’t go under as much, the paint’s gonna open up more because they have to pressure him and the offense will just explode. He was on board with it, and even Recee was, his main thing this summer has to be not only his form and function of his shot but just getting confident and believing in what he’s doing is gonna translate to the game. So, that was one of the key areas of focus,” Coach Loucks said. “Rim finishing, his touch in the paint, he was already at an extremely high-level. He and Ja (Morant), when they touch the paint, the offensive efficiency goes through the roof. So, if he can maintain that, add to his jump shot, and then lock in defensively, we felt like if he could do those things our team would benefit so much for it.”

The results are evident. Fox is shooting a career-high 5.4 three-point attempts per game and knocking down 38.5 percent of them. As Coach Loucks predicted, it has unlocked not only the rest of Fox’s offensive arsenal but Sacramento’s entire offense.

The Kings currently have the second-best offensive rating (116.0) in the NBA, only trailing the Boston Celtics (119.0), with Fox leading the squad in scoring. He’s averaging 25.1 points, 6.1 assists, and 4.9 rebounds on 53.0 percent from the field, 38.5 percent from three, and 82.0 percent from the free-throw line. There are only three players currently scoring 25+ points per game on better efficiency than Fox: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Anthony Davis.

There were three specific areas of focus for Coach Loucks and Fox in the process of refining his jump shot, which included Coach Loucks tagging along for Fox’s honeymoon in Italy. Last season, 52 percent of Fox’s field-goal attempts had a defender within four feet, per NBA stats. 36.1 percent came with a defender within four to six feet, and 11.8 percent of his shot attempts were “wide-open”, meaning no defender was within six feet of him when the shot was attempted.

His number of “wide-open” attempts this season has taken a substantial jump from 11.8 percent to 17.7 percent of his total attempts and the number of shots with a defender within four feet fell from 52 percent in 2021-22 to 41.3 percent through 17 games. Easier looks are always more likely to go down.

“Number one, shot selection was a big thing. I felt like he took a lot of shots that were really tough to make to start, and trusting that if he got off the ball the ball would find him again. Steve (Kerr) had a saying with [Kevin Durant], that the ball gravitates towards the best people on the court and I don’t think he fully believed in that because it hadn’t,” Coach Loucks said. “So, understanding that, ‘Hey, I got a really tough shot I could probably shoot. Get off the ball, let it move, let the defense shift, and then when you get it back you have such an easier shot.’ That’s number one. Shot selection can help percentages go up through the roof, without even changing anything.”

30 percent of De’Aaron Fox’s made field goals this season have been assisted, per Cleaning the Glass, which is a career-high. The Kings are currently tied for fourth in assists per game (27.7). The trust that has been built in his teammate’s ball movement and decision-making is also a credit to the high-IQ players that are now around him and the system that Coach Brown has implemented.

 

“It’s the work, but I think a large majority of it is picking my spots. We work on stuff, we work on mid-range, threes, free-throws, everything. But, I think just being able to get to my spots and pick and choose what I’m shooting has played a large factor,” Fox said. “The work that we put in, a lot of form shooting, it’s paying off. I feel like we’re still early in the season, so you just want to be able to keep that shooting streak going.”

There were also a couple of specifics to the mechanics of Fox’s jumper that Coach Luke Loucks had identified and keyed in on throughout the course of their offseason work.

“Number two was his follow-through. A lot of times, he would let his follow-through fall, instead of just sticking it, and because of that, his arc was less. If you stick your follow-through, automatically, your arc is going to rise because naturally when your follow-through falls it’s hard to shoot it up. Those were the two biggest things. Elbow above eye is just an old saying, when you follow through your elbow has to be above your eye,” Coach Loucks said. “And then number three, his balance on his shot. A lot of times, especially off the dribble, his shoulders were going backward, which you’re fighting against yourself at that point. Your momentum should generally, especially catch-and-shoot, your momentum should be going towards the basket so you’re not fighting against yourself and, again, that will make your arc fall and a lot of times hit the front of the rim. Those were the big things.”

 

The proof is in the pudding. Fox is shooting an absurd 47.4 percent on 2.2 catch-and-shoot threes per game this season. His free-throw routine has been shortened, and he’s converting from the line at a career-high 82.0 percent rate.

“A lot of it was through form shooting, working out right around the charge circle, like hundreds of reps, and then working our way back, every shot the same all the way back to the three-point line. And then you add in the dribbling,” Coach Loucks said. “And then, for me, another big focus was getting him to play off the hit and hand back, knowing he’s going to be playing with Sabonis. Being comfortable flying off hand-backs, they go under, you just stop at the three-point line and shoot it.”

 

Those shots have gone down at a good enough rate for the sixth-year point guard that teams are now starting to go over screens when defending him, which allows him to snake pick-and-rolls for easy mid-range looks, or fully utilize his already elite skill of getting downhill and finishing at the basket.

 

Coach Loucks mentioned the importance of Fox developing improved confidence in his jump shot, and it seems like we’ve reached that point. Fox was recently asked if he still believes he’s the fastest player in the entire NBA, and his confidence was apparent in his reply.

“I use my speed when I have to. I feel like my pace is a lot better than it was in the past. The label doesn’t necessarily matter to me,” Fox said. “I get whatever shot I want, honestly, whether it’s a mid-range, a floater. I don’t know what I shoot at the rim, but I know it’s top of the league regardless if I’m wide-open or going through someone’s body.”

Finishing at the rim has always been Fox’s elite skill and his ability to get there has become that much easier with his improved jumper. Of all players attempting at least six field goals within six feet per game, Fox is fourth in conversion rate at 69.8 percent, per NBA stats. After Fox, who measures in at 6’3”, the next shortest player in the top 10 is Aaron Gordon (6’8”).

The confidence in his finishing isn’t new, but that same confidence being applied to his jumper has come from countless repetitions with Coach Luke Loucks throughout the summer whether that be in San Diego, Italy, or Sacramento. Coach Loucks explained how the drills he’s implemented with Fox are comparable to another elite point guard he worked with years prior.

“A lot of the drills we do are similar to the drills that Steph (Curry) does. You have to beat the drill. Whether it’s you gotta make 10 out of 13, or 16 out of 20. There are markers within drills that we wanted to hit. But, in terms of total volume, I don’t like to keep track of total volume,” Coach Loucks said. “Because to me you just get lazier. You can make 200 non-game-like shots and not improve at all. Whereas you can make 10 game-like shots and it’s a really good thing. And that’s just a personal thing with me. I don’t say ‘Hey, you gotta make ten-thousand shots this week.’ Like, nah, I’d rather make 250 game-shots, that is actually going to translate to what we’re doing. So, we got up a ton of shots, but I tried to focus more on how will this carry over to a game and less on the total number for the summer.”

It’s carried over, no questions asked, and it’s a testament to Fox’s work-ethic and the specifics that Coach Luke Loucks helped implement and clean up.

If De’Aaron Fox continues at this rate, not only will have a serious argument for making his first All-Star team, but the Sacramento Kings organization could very well be on track to end their sixteen-year postseason drought.

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RPO
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RPO
November 27, 2022 2:21 pm

which included Coach Loucks tagging along for Fox’s honeymoon in Italy

This is some serious dedication, from the player (and his wife) and the coach. I can just imagine what the three of them must’ve done together. Probably made for some awkward nights in the bedroom but I don’t care, the results for Fox’s shooting are real.

It’s good to know that the improved shooting isn’t just coincidental and something that could suddenly disappear – some serious work was put into it, and so it’ll keep going.

PretendGhost
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November 27, 2022 4:11 pm
Reply to  RPO

I imagine it was bigger sacrifice for Fox/Recee than for coach, considering he got a work-sponsored trip to Europe in the summer.

Honestly it probably just made Fox’s life easier too, as he now had a guy to help him out in the gym instead of doing it alone

Jack
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November 28, 2022 7:25 am
Reply to  PretendGhost

Quite a ways back there were some comments that being married had nothing to do with Fox’s performance. Recee seems to have done a lot according to the post above and of course Loucks work with Fox. I really enjoyed the above post. Thanks.

Dan Houlder
Dan Houlder
November 27, 2022 2:21 pm

Yeah, it might be all of that work and practice showing results. Or it might be that when Fox shoots and I say, “Pleeaaaaaaase,” they go in–except when they dont–and I when I don’t, they don’t, except when they do.

I’m not saying that it’s entirely me, but it’s probably mostly me.

eddie41
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November 27, 2022 4:21 pm

Outstanding

Kingsguru21
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November 27, 2022 6:05 pm

Great piece Brendan. Thanks.

RPO
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RPO
November 27, 2022 6:46 pm

This article restores my faith in people named Luke. Maybe we should get coach Loucks to work with Keegan.

Bluejohn
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November 27, 2022 7:02 pm

Excellent article Brenden, I learned a lot. Thanks

Brown.says.Good.or.Bad
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November 27, 2022 8:01 pm

38.5% on 3s is good, and a big jump to make in just one season. From memory he was under 30% last year.

Last edited 1 year ago by Marcus Brown
UpgradedToQuestionable
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November 27, 2022 10:24 pm

Motivation+ Dedication + Perspiration = Results

What a revelation!

Well done for your work as well Brenden.

Fox has been effusive in complimenting his work with Coach Loucks. And yes, the results do speak for themselves. His FT % is up (he just needs to get more calls!) and his confidence has a new semi-swagger to it. He isn’t forcing shots like he was – he has learned to create and chose his opportunities much more readily. Even though I have a Kings bias, I would put De’Aaron as a top ten 4th Q finisher, certainly tops on Sacramento (Monk second?).

The improved shooting, matched with his improved on ball D has elevated Fox to be in the backcourt All-Star discussion in a tightly contested Western Conference.

RikSmits
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November 27, 2022 10:26 pm

This really has the feel of a jinxing article.

Knock on wood, Brenden.

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
November 28, 2022 7:33 am

This is a great article! Thanks Brenden.

Luke deserves a raise!

(There’s four words I didn’t think would come out of my mouth a year ago.)

Klam
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Nostradumbass 19
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November 28, 2022 8:07 am
Reply to  Adamsite

comment image

Marty
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November 28, 2022 8:46 am

That was a joy to read and I’m grateful you put that together for us Brenden.

andy_sims
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November 28, 2022 10:08 am

Another outstanding analysis, Brendan!

1951
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November 28, 2022 1:51 pm

Good stuff from both Nunes and Fox and Loucks …

RPO
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November 28, 2022 5:25 pm
Reply to  1951

And don’t forget Reece. Both of the four of them did great.

Kingsguru21
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November 28, 2022 6:34 pm
Reply to  RPO

Both of the four of them did great.

I hope you get 100 thumbs up for this. LOL

NowLoveThemOnceAgain
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November 28, 2022 6:15 pm

Anybody remember when Tyreke Evans’s 3-pointers were usually short because he jumped away from the basket to create space? Learning to create space so you can use momentum is critical to distance shooting.

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