I think it’s fair to say that few Kings rookies have come into a season saddled with as many expectations as De’Aaron Fox. Fox has been heralded as “the future” for this franchise, the next star in the post-DeMarcus Cousins era and perhaps the answer to Sacramento’s long time search for a Point Guard. That’s a lot of hope being put on the shoulders of a 19 year old rookie.
Fox himself seems to possess a work ethic and passion for the game that endears him to fans. The Sports Illustrated profile of him before the draft won over many of us. Fox is supremely confident and immensely likable, and should his play live up to the billing, he has the temperament to be the kind of star that attracts fans who might not have paid attention to Sacramento otherwise.
But likability and confidence only go so far in the NBA; It only matters if you play and play well. Fox is being handed the keys of a franchise that has seen more than its fair share of disappointment. The annals of Kings history are littered with busts and washouts, and many have been anointed as chosen ones and failed to perform. So while we admire his speed, his tenacity and his confidence, it’s only fair that Kings fans also worry about his shaky jump shot, slight frame and overall court vision. After all, we’ve seen it all before. We’ve been enamored with guys from June to October and then the actual basketball season starts and reality kicks in.
The Kings won’t be throwing Fox into the fire right away though, no matter the expectations. That’s good, a lesson learned from previous mistakes. Even if Fox is the real deal, he should be given the chance to prove it and learn behind someone who can provide a steady hand in the meantime. In George Hill, the Kings have a valuable mentor for the short term who can also spend some time playing with Fox. The addition of Frank Mason also means Fox has someone younger competing with him for minutes, but Mason is a bit of a veteran himself when it comes to rookies, having played four years in college and going deep in tournament play each year.
De’Aaron will also inevitably be compared to the other point guards taken in his class, especially the ones taken after him. Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball, Dennis Smith, Frank Ntilikina, Donovan Mitchell all have their own expectations and hype with each franchise hoping for great things. Few need a win as badly as the Kings though.
The hopes of a franchise mired in over a decade of losing can be overwhelming, and so no matter what Fox does, it might not be enough. The path to becoming a star is a tough one, and most people don’t make it. It will be even harder for Fox, but dammit, I can’t wait to see him try.