Despite missing the playoffs for the 15th season in a row, there were some positives for the Sacramento Kings. Star point guard De’Aaron Fox took a step in his development and continues to improve going into his fifth NBA season.
The pressure will amplify for the 23-year-old next season. Fox signed a five-year extension with the club worth $163 million that will kick in next season. But Fox showed why he is worth the lucrative extension with his play this past season.
He averaged a career-high 25.2 points per game and 7.2 assists. Fox helped the Kings stay in the play-in race until he missed the final 13 games of the season due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
Another area Fox is looking to improve on is his 3-point shooting. Although he was below the league average in 3-point percentage at 32.2, Fox took a career-high 5.5 shots from beyond the arc per game.
Fox’s quickness allows him to be one of the best players in the NBA at getting into the paint. He shot 76.1 percent from within three feet last season and has developed a nice mid-range jumper off the pick-and-roll. Fox also averaged a career-best 7.2 free throw attempts per game, which was tied for the seventh-most in the league.
There is no doubt about Fox’s importance to the offense. Sacramento scored 4.6 more points per 100 possessions when the point guard was on the court. Fox averaged 27 points per game in Kings’ victories last season, and he became one of the best closers in the league.
He averaged 7.3 points in the fourth quarter, which is tied with Bradley Beal for fourth-most in the NBA. The only players who scored more points over the final 12 minutes are Jayson Tatum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and James Harden.
Fox came up clutch for Sacramento several times and was always the No. 1 option on offense in the final minutes of close games. The Kings are hoping he will become even more deadly in the closing minutes in his fifth year.
Like the rest of the squad, Fox will have to continue to get better on the defensive end. His 118.0 defensive rating was the second-worst of any Sacramento player who played in more than 20 games. The Kings gave up 6.4 fewer points per 100 possessions when Fox was on the bench.
Head coach Luke Walton will need to revamp the team’s defensive scheme. Sacramento finished with the worst defensive rating out of any team in NBA history and routinely got lit up in the pick-and-roll.
Some of that falls on Fox, who had a tough time staying with his man off the dribble, especially against star-level opponents. Fox acknowledged that he needs to be better during his exit interview.
“It starts with me and Ty on the ball, we both have to be better defensively on that end next year,” Fox said. “If we’re good as a tandem, as a backcourt defensively, I think it will uplift our team.”
Overall, Fox had a very good season. He continues to add elements to his game and should take another major step next season. Fox is the unquestioned leader of the Kings and will be the primary reason the team will end its 15-year playoff drought next season.
What is one area you want to see Fox improve on going into the 2021-22 season?