The 2017 NBA Draft was a turning point for the Kings franchise. Not only did the lottery leave the team with a top-five selection, but Sacramento used that pick on De’Aaron Fox, who has become the best player on the Kings and their cornerstone moving forward.
They also used the 10th pick in a trade to acquire Justin Jackson and Harry Giles, eventually turning Jackson into Harrison Barnes, and Fox, Giles, and Barnes make up one-third of the current Kings rotation.
But Fox is the key moving forward, the Kings player with clearest All-Star potential, and he’s the NBA junior who analysts have their eye on.
In a ranking of third-year players (including Ben Simmons, who sat out the entirety of his rookie season), ESPN placed Fox fifth in terms of superstar potential. Considering the four players above him were all named All-Stars this season — Jayson Tatum, Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, and Bam Adebayo — that placement is a ringing endorsement of Fox’s ability to take another leap moving forward.
As for Fox, I think as of today he’s likely just a cut below this tier, but I wouldn’t be surprised one bit if he’s in the same conversation as Mitchell at this time next year. He’s more than a year younger and took a big step this season as a finisher, even if his 3-point shooting wasn’t stable. As long as the Kings can give him enough space to utilize his blazing speed and he can fine-tune his 3-point shooting, there’s no reason Fox shouldn’t emerge as a potential All-Star.
Fox was at his best right before the league suspended play, and it’s no coincidence that the team as a whole was too. He averaged 22 points and six assists over the final 24 games and increased his offensive efficiency even without a consistent 3-point jumper.
Quick reminder that De'Aaron Fox was in the midst of a career year (20.4 points, 6.8 assists, 55.6 TS%).— Karens In Paris (@NekiasNBA) June 20, 2020
Became more manipulative in the half-court -- peep his pacing in PnR, particularly the late bursts on drives -- & showcased more comfort in floater range. FT & rim rate up. pic.twitter.com/eclEFoZsb0
It’s worth noting that Fox was the third point guard taken in the 2017 draft and has leapfrogged both players taken above him in Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball. Fox’s teammate Adebayo may have more superstar potential for now, but the Kings did well to snag a perimeter creator with the fifth pick who can be the fulcrum of a successful offense. If Fox catches up to Mitchell, who Schmitz points out is over a year older than his Sacramento counterpart, then the Kings will have made the best pick possible, even with the benefit of hindsight.
One other distinction those four players have from Fox is that they’ve played in the postseason. Making the playoffs this season would be the surest way for Fox to begin closing the gap.