Just 5 years ago, the Sacramento Kings were in danger of moving to Seattle. Although the team had a rabid fanbase behind them, the franchise lacked an identity and I’ll never forget watching the team’s last home game of the 2013-2014 season with the announcers assuming it was a foregone conclusion the team was moving north.
Fast forward a few years later. The team survived a potential relocation and remained in Sacramento. Over the next couple of seasons, there were a lot of growing pains either way. Missed draft picks (Nik Stauskas, Georgios Papagiannis), coaching changes (Mike Malone to George Karl to Dave Joerger), and uncertainty among the fanbase in how the team was being managed.
Questions still remain about the potential of the Sacramento Kings long term. They still have a long way to go. That being said, the team is off to a promising start so far in 2018-2019 and one player specifically whom they drafted as a 2017 top 5 pick is giving this team a factor that they have lacked for quite simply this whole decade: an identity.
De’Aaron Fox is the conductor behind the Kings bandwagon going into next decade, and he’s the reason why the Sacramento Kings have hope for the first time in a very long time.
I became an NBA fan in the early 2000s, and this was a time when the Kings were good. Chris Webber, Peja Stojakovic, Mike Bibby. Might be hard for NBA fans who are teenagers currently to put in perspective, but this was a team you didn’t want to face once upon a time. But since 2005-2006 when they won 44 games and were eliminated in the 1st round, this team has been through NBA purgatory. They won 38 games in 2007-2008 but other than that have not won more than 33 games in any season since making the 2006 playoffs.
DeMarcus Cousins was a talented young player who put in ridiculous individual outings at times, but the team was in limbo and Cousins’ talent was not enough to ever make this team a serious playoff contender. So they traded him in February 2017.
So with the 5th pick in the 2017 Draft, the Kings selected De’Aaron Fox out of Kentucky (like Cousins coincidentally) and there were absolutely rookie growing pains. Although Fox showed a clutch gene that was uncommon among players his age, the questions pre-draft about his shooting efficiency were still there and the team actually lost 5 games more than they did the previous season.
But then the Kings got lucky in the lottery and got the 2nd pick in the 2018 draft. The overwhelming consensus among NBA fans was that the Kings should draft Slovenian stud muffin Luka Doncic to pair with Fox long term in the backcourt leading to an exciting combination to lead Sacramento into the future.
But Kings GM Vlade Divac wasn’t having any of the consensuses and decided to draft the young potential star out of Duke Marvin Bagley III with the 2nd pick much to the let down of the majority of the Kings fanbase. So while a future backcourt of Fox/Doncic was now out of the picture, what was clear is that De’Aaron Fox was going to have plenty of opportunities to prove himself in his sophomore campaign.
It’s only been 24 games into the season, but so far not only has Fox not disappointed, but he’s shown the potential to be a superstar that the Kings have lacked since arguably Peja Stojakovic and Chris Webber 12+ years ago.
With the Kings currently sitting at a surprising 13-11, and Fox taking a sophomore surge, it has been an A+ year so far for this Kings team on the rise. Let’s take a look at how Fox has improved from his rookie season:
Games With At Least 20 Points:
Games With at Least 10 Assists:
Statistically, Fox has improved in nearly every category. His team is winning and Sacramento fans are happy with the improved team success. But when watching the games, this is a player who clearly looks more comfortable and put in the work this offseason. Fox himself said that entering the NBA, his comfort level wasn’t where it should be and this has gradually increased over time.
To combine with his potentially elite talent level, as Fox’s comfort level has skyrocketed in his 14 months as an NBA player so has his value as an NBA player.
My Overall Ranking for De’Aaron Fox
December 8, 2018: #54 Overall Player
End of 2017-2018 Season: #188 Overall Player
With the Kings winning and Fox showing remarkable improvement, I currently have him as a top 55 overall player. This is a 130+ spot jump from where I had him last season and it is not out of the question to have him as a MIP candidate. Zach LaVine is the favorite right now, but with Lauri Markkanen returning LaVine’s spotlight might decrease just a little bit opening up a window of opportunity for Fox to grab the award.
His most important area of improvement has been his 3 point shooting so far. In this current era, 3 point shooting is crucial. Gregg Popovich said that when looking at a box score after the game, quite simply whoever makes the most 3’s usually wins the game. So Fox increasing his value from a sub-par 3 point shooter who defenders wouldn’t be too scared to even leave open to a near-elite level has been incredible. And it’s been a big reason in Fox making his case for being a feared all around point guard as we enter the 2020’s decade.
Fox has a long way to go, this Kings team does too. In a loaded Western Conference, there are still doubts this team can seriously contend for the playoffs this season. But what’s important is for the first time in a long time Kings fans have serious hope for the future, and this hope is catapulted by Mr. De’Aaron Fox himself.
A sophomore surge, an increased comfortable demeanor on the court, and not even legal drinking age for another 12 days. De’Aaron Fox is looking like the perfect player to lead the Kings into the future.
The way he is progressing, I would not be surprised to see him as a top 25 player by this time next year.