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De’Aaron Fox Is One Of The NBA’s Best Thieves

They don’t call him Swipa for nothing.

Kimani Okearah

Welcome to ‘90 seconds of...’ a short form video series highlighting the signature skills your Sacramento Kings are known for. If this was around in the glory days, you’d see ‘90 seconds of Vlade Divac passing out of the post’ or in the not-so-glory days, ‘90 seconds of John Salmons dribbling the air out of the basketball’ but in this new, exciting era of Kings basketball, we’re learning new stuff about these young players every day, and this series hopes to highlight some of those signature skills these young players possess. Shout out to Beno Udrih, the PUJIT (Pull Up Jumper In Transition) god.

De’Aaron Fox and his breakout season are a big reason why the Sacramento Kings are where they are, and as of last night, where they are is in the playoffs if the playoffs started today. That’s right, this young Kings team is the 8-seed in the Western Conference playoff picture in mid-February. Who saw that coming?

Fox has made major improvements in a number of key areas that we’ve either written about in the past, or will in the future, but today I wanted to focus on his defense, and more specifically, steals.

Steals are kind of a scoffed at stat these days, and I understand why. It’s lazy analysis to look at someones steals number and determine that a player is a good or bad defender, and while this isn’t something you’ll see a lot of people do now, for a while, before advance statistics became a mainstream tool, you’d see NBA fans point to a player with a high steals count and pontificate about how great of a defender they are when in reality, there is a lot more to defense than steals.

Now that I’ve dismantled the usefulness of steals as a statistic, I’m going to talk about how great De’Aaron Fox is at stealing the ball.

De’Aaron Fox is one of the best thieves in the NBA today. According to Cleaning The Glass, Fox steals the ball on roughly 2.2% of defensive possessions which puts him in the 84th percentile among point guards. This is a fairly significant positive development over his steals rate last season, which was just 1.5%, good for 39th percentile among guards,

Fox averages 1.7 steals per game, good for 6th in the entire NBA. Russell Westbrook is the only point guard averaging more steals per game this season (2.2) but it’s worth noting here that Westbrook commits 3.4 fouls per game to Fox’s 2.5, so Fox is stealing at an elite clip for point guards while keeping the personal fouls down.

I went back and watched every De’Aaron Fox steal this season, and it was remarkable just how different and purposeful they were. This isn’t a player accidentally finding the ball in his hands. Fox is making plays, and the variety is something special.

He’s got Hail Mary interceptions, he’s got steals in isolation, he’s got steals helping on drives, he’s got steals jumping the passing lane, he’s got steals reading opposing offenses better than the offensive players he’s defending. He’s doing it all, and I tried to highlight that variety in the ‘90 seconds of...’ clip you’ll find below.

Fox has made his overall defense a real point of emphasis this season. He’s said on multiple occasions that a personal goal of his is to land on an NBA All-Defensive Team, and while I wouldn’t necessarily argue that he’s at that level yet, (NBA cliché incoming) he’s got all the tools. His combination of quick hands, quick feet, and excellent anticipation should have Kings fans excited about the defensive potential he possesses.

One last thing before we get to the footage. For anyone still wondering why De’Aaron Fox goes by the nickname Swipa, it was given to him by a friends dad for two reasons; he gets a lot of steals, and Dora the Explorer.

You can hear Fox explain it in his own words via The PostGame below:

And finally, here’s 90 seconds of De’Aaron Fox dismantling opposing offenses with his steals.