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Fox, Haliburton among ESPN’s best 25 under 25

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

In general manager Monte McNair’s first year at the helm, the Sacramento Kings have had an up and down season. The team has gone on impressive runs but also looked less than stellar during specific stretches of the season.

During his introductory press conference, McNair preached patience and has tried to make moves to maintain financial flexibility going forward, especially as he tries to build a roster around two talented young pieces.

The Kings have the building blocks in place, with De’Aaron Fox and Tyrese Haliburton just scratching the surface of their potential. ESPN released its NBA’s best 25 under 25 list, and both Sacramento players were selected.

Fox came in at No. 6:

Fox is one of only seven players in the NBA averaging at least 24 points and 7 assists per game as the leader of a Kings franchise that finally appears headed in the right direction.

As I outlined last year, the game has slowed down for Fox — he’s striking that balance between using his blazing speed and taking what the defense gives him. According to Second Spectrum data, Fox generates the fifth-most points per chance on drives. He’s also posting a 70% effective field goal percentage on shots in the restricted area.

Once he can get his 3-ball above league average, Fox will be close to unguardable. — Schmitz

Fox leads the team in both scoring and assists and looks to have taken a step into developing into a future All-Star. He’s attempting 5.5 3-pointers per game and connecting on 32.6 percent of his attempts. Fox is easily the best player on the roster and will be the featured piece for the foreseeable future after signing a five-year extension prior to the season.

Haliburton came in at No. 21:

The No. 2 player in my projections for the 2020 draft has lived up to that billing despite sliding to 12th on draft night.

If anything, Haliburton has exceeded expectations with his knockdown outside shooting (42% from 3-point range) and ability to create out of the pick-and-roll — areas that were supposedly concerns. Remarkably, Sacramento’s 1.04 points per chance on Haliburton pick-and-rolls rank him in the 80th percentile among ball handlers with at least 250 such plays, according to Second Spectrum tracking. — Pelton

It looks like Haliburton will go down as the steal of the 2020 NBA Draft. The 21-year-old ranks third in scoring among all rookies and is also third in 3-point percentage among rookies who have played more than 200 minutes.

He’s averaging 14.5 points per game since head coach Luke Walton inserted Haliburton into the starting lineup in place of the injured Marvin Bagley III. Sacramento is 7-5 during that stretch. As Kevin Pelton points out, Haliburton has been outstanding in the pick-and-roll and gives Walton another desperately needed playmaker behind Fox.

The offseason will be a big one for McNair. With Fox and Haliburton in place, the Kings need to add some young depth behind them to set the franchise up for years to come. Sacramento has shown flashes this season, but consistency will be essential moving forward.