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Grade the season: De’Aaron Fox

Let’s grade the season!

Sacramento Kings v Washington Wizards Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

With the season officially behind us, this is about the time we would normally begin looking forward to the draft. Actually, we normally would have been looking forward to the draft starting around February. But with the Sacramento Kings lacking a first round pick this year, and with free agency still a staggering two months away, we can spend a little more time than normal reflecting on the past season. We’re going to do this by grading every player on the roster, one at a time.

The Sactown Royalty staff will provide their grades and thoughts, and we’ll have a poll and can discuss and debate.

When grading the Sacramento Kings 2018-19 season, where better to begin than De’Aaron Fox? Fox had a breakout year, finishing the year with 17.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 7.3 assists, and 1.6 steals per game.


Greg: A

I can’t give Fox anything but an A for this season. He exceeded my every expectation. He played fast, played well, played 81 games, improved his shooting, and showed the world that he’s ready to be a star. I was honestly worried after last season. I still liked Fox, but I worried he was going to be a player I liked but who couldn’t live up to his potential. It brought me so much joy seeing the leap he made this year, and convinced me that he still has potential for more.

Akis: A

Despite having a kind of ho-hum rookie season, I was still pretty excited about De’Aaron Fox’s future. The flashes were there, even if the consistency wasn’t. Still, I don’t think anyone expected the level of growth we saw from him this year. Fox improved in basically every statistical category by a significant amount. He improved his strength, his shot and his decision making. The growth we saw from him last year was where I was hoping to see him be by the end of his rookie deal. He’s ahead of the curve, and well on the way to stardom if he keeps it up.

Rob: A

Here’s a guy that couldn’t crack the 2nd team all-rookie in 17-18, being shut out by the likes of Dennis Smith, Jr., Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson (Bogdan Bogdanovic cracked the 2nd team but De’Aaron did not). A year later and he is widely regarded as being top three in his draft class, competing with the likes of Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum. Added 46 percentage points to his field goal percentage, a whopping 70 percentage points to his conversion rate from beyond the arc, almost doubled his free throw attempts (though his conversion rate barely went up). More steals, more blocks, more assists while vastly improving his assist/turnover ratio. Most importantly, became the leader of the team at the ripe old age of 21. As much as he improved his game, it is his ability to improve those around him that sets him apart from many of the other modern-day “point” guards. Buddy Hield and his wide open looks from three, Marvin Bagley in the open floor and (especially) Willie Cauley-Stein all benefited greatly from Fox’s ability to play selflessly. And he should be credited with single-handedly getting Vlade Divac his four year extension. Without Fox, the Kings are still a tire fire.

Sanjesh: A

The obvious answer is obvious. This team has needed a star point guard to help take them to the next level and De’Aaron Fox is already showing the world how much potential he has in only his second season. His incredible sophomore rise gets an A as well as his overall season. There were significant improvements all across the board and I specifically enjoyed his three point clip increasing and steals/chest-to-chest defense be on display (see Mike Conley). I look forward to watching him again next season and look to free throws as the next area of development. Using his quickness and increased strength to get to the line more often is one thing, but I’m hoping he knocks down his free throws at around 80-83% next season.

Tim: A++

Well so far, I think he’s been killing it. I thought he’d either be an A or an A+, but I completely forgot that there’s an A++.

Michael Scott quotes aside, De’Aaron Fox has used the last year to completely change the conversation around his floor and ceiling. Lonzo Ball and Dennis Smith Jr. both posted arguably equal or better seasons as rookie, and Fox struggled throughout most of his first year in the pros. The flashes were there, but the consistency was not.

Go back to April of 2018 and tell yourself that De’Aaron will average 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 7 assists while shooting 46% from the floor and 37% from deep during the 2019 campaign, and watch yourself scream in exultation. He’s left the vast majority of his fellow 2017 draftees behind and has vaulted himself somewhere among the top-10 or top-15 point guards in the NBA. You can quite literally take any random statistical measurement from his rookie season and find significant improvements in that area in his second year. He completely evolved as a high-level contributor in just one offseason:

Fox Improvements

Category Rookie Sophomore Improvement
Category Rookie Sophomore Improvement
Points 11.6 17.3 5.7
Assists 4.4 7.3 2.9
Rebounds 2.8 3.8 1
Steals 1 1.6 0.6
Blocks 0.3 0.3 0.3
FTA 2.7 5.1 2.4
FG% 41.2% 45.8% 4.6%
3P% 30.7% 37.1% 6.4%
TS% 47.8% 54.4% 6.6%
PER 11.2 18.1 6.9
VORP -1.2 2 3.2
BPM -4.4 1.1 5.5

Fox has now cemented himself as a starting-caliber point guard as a 21-year old sophomore. The debate has now transformed into how many All-Star games he’ll possibly make, and if De’Aaron’s development will blossom into an MVP-level guard. His potential ceiling has moved closer to that of a healthy Derrick Rose or John Wall, while his floor is now that of an above-average starter. He is the future of this team.

Richard: A

My initial thought was to give De’Aaron Fox an A+, or even an A++, for this season. Then I remembered that this is the big leagues, not an elementary school. The grade of an A is the best I’m giving out, and Swipa has unquestionably earned it.

The statistical improvement is clear and has been articulated well by the other contributors to this post. He has blossomed into the physical, mental, and emotional leader of this promising young Sacramento Kings team. Some of those elements could have been predicted, but no one can look you in they eye and honestly say they expected this level of efficiency after what we saw from Fox as a rookie. And while there are still areas in which he could improve, any criticisms of his sophomore campaign would just be nitpicky.

His value goes far beyond the numbers. Fox proved himself to be of supreme importance to the franchise for this season and for many seasons to come. He gave the Kings an identity, and a promisingly functional one at that. They have a cornerstone player that they can trust to run the team on both sides of the floor. Free agents will see a desirable destination in Sacramento alongside him. Current players will take pride in staying as a part of his squad. Opposing teams will take notice, and soon enough, they will shake in their boots.

Sean: A+

I must confess, I have been asked to do something I cannot do. I have been asked to give De’Aaron Fox a grade as a basketball player. It’s not some philosophical or moral stance as a lifelong Kings fan, it’s that the traditional metrics by which one would traditionally apply to evaluating a basketball player just don’t seem to apply to him. Asking “What grade would you give De’Aaron Fox?” is akin to asking “How much does Thor’s Hammer weigh?”. It’s not quantifiable. There isn’t a number or letter you could possibly assign to it that would accurately translate the true impact/force of the object in discussion. To zoom in on the usual analytical measurements of productivity would miss so much of what makes him a special player. How does one calculate “Runs so fast he makes the rest of the team run faster just to keep up.” Does Kirk Goldsberry have a chart for that? Is there part of the Sloan conference that covers “Can you believe how fun it would be to play with this guy on your team?”.

As Kings fans collectively emerge from the abyss of the last decade of fandom I can’t think of a better person to lead us out of our own Plato’s cave that Fox. It’s not like he’s lacking in any of the typical stats du jour, he checks all those boxes just fine. Scientifically he has everything you could want in a modern PG; speed, unselfishness, speed, defense, speed, (good enough) shooting, speed, rim attacker, speed. It’s that he combines that with all the impossible to pin down intangibles (the art at the other end of the science spectrum). The way you can see his teammates reaching down for that last little something because they know that’s what Fox does and expects them to do as well. Throughout my life I’ve heard many people discuss the way some players just make other players better and I always understood it, but from afar. I’ve never seen a better example up close and it’s such a beautiful thing to witness. I’ve never felt better about a Kings roster than I do right now and I give much of that credit to Fox. The Kings have something special in Fox, I think they know it, I think we know it, and I think the rest of the league is quickly finding out. Fox is ungradeable, he was done with that long ago. He’s the professor now, they don’t get grades, they give them. So with that said, I’m afraid I must abstain from giving a grade…...unless it’s required to get this posted, if that’s the case he gets an A+ (I’m still new here and learning the rules).

Tony: A

I can admit now that I was a little worried about De’Aaron Fox after his rookie season. The numbers weren’t good, the Kings weren’t good, and he didn’t look like the franchise savior he does now. Watching what draft classmates Jayson Tatum and Donovan Mitchell were able to do in their rookie seasons only made it worse.

Fox was so good in his sophomore season that the conversation around his draft class has changed entirely. You can give some credit to both Tatum and Mitchell for not quite living up to expectations after great rookie seasons, but Fox forced himself into that best of his draft class conversation, and that’s huge for him, it’s huge for Vlade Divac, and it’s huge for the Sacramento Kings. I’m giving him an A here because he blew through my most optimistic expectations heading into the season. Coming into the NBA, we were hopeful that De’Aaron Fox would develop an outside shot someday, and he figured it out in year 2.

The only bad thing I can say about Fox in his sophomore season is that I’m still not sure he realizes how good he is. The Kings were at their best when he was aggressive with his own shot and attacking the defense, and I thought he could have done that more often and earlier in games instead of letting the game dictate when he should be aggressive. I want him in attack mode all the time, and I think he’ll get there.

Kimani: A+

It’s a tie between De’Aaron and Bogdan Bogdanovic in terms of who was the most photogenic this season. When it comes to basketball, he performed beyond my expectations. Next season, I’d like to see more consistency from night to night. In year three, “tired legs” shouldn’t apply anymore.

I’d also like to see his charismatic media presence with more consistency. That can take a special kind of energy, but if anyone is up to it, it’s De’Aaron Fox!



How would you grade De’Aaron Fox’s season?

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