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Why defense is the key to De’Aaron Fox’s All-Star ascension

Fox says he knows knows he needs to be more consistent on defense this season.

Coming off of the lowest-rated defensive season in Sacramento Kings history, the numbers don’t lie. Despite having a career year and a near All-Star berth, De’Aaron Fox was less than stellar on defense last season.

When Fox was on the court last season, the Kings’ defensive rating (per 100 possessions) soared to a whopping 118, two points worse than the previously recorded worst in history. When Fox was off the court, the team’s rating was rated 10th overall in the league at 111.8

So what’s the solution here? The Kings’ superstar knows that this season will come with great responsibility starting on the defensive end, and that simply comes down to “being solid for six or seven-minute stretches.”

“I know that I have to be more consistent on that end of the floor from the first quarter to the fourth quarter,” Fox told reporters last week. “For the last few years, I’ve been near the top of the league in deflections and steals but it’s a lot more than that; it’s a lot more than just getting your hands on balls.”

Fox was nothing short of a supernova in the fourth quarter last season, averaging the fourth-most points in the final frame at 7.3 points per game. Fox is having career-year after career-year offensively to the point where he’s a legitimate offensive force going into his fifth year, and it’s damn fun to watch closing out games.

And yet, it hasn’t translated to wins for the Kings, in part because of what Fox gives up on the other end. Elevating that portion of his game is essential, and Fox knows it.

“That’s what I want to be: one of those guys that can guard the best perimeter player on the team and still do what I have to do offensively to help the team win,” Fox said.

With the addition of defensive steamroller Davion Mitchell and what feels like one hundred people who can play the five, the team should start to build a defensive identity naturally, but Fox’s development into a scorer and a stopper is going to determine how far this team is able to go to claim victories night-in and night-out.