Sacramento Kings, The Whiteboard

The Whiteboard: De’Aaron Fox is leading the Sacramento Kings to relevance

De’Aaron Fox looked like he might be yet another Sacramento Kings bust, until all of a sudden he wasn’t and the Kings started winning. Will that trend hold up?

In 73 games and 61 starts as a rookie, De’Aaron Fox scored 20 or more points five times. Fox recorded three double-doubles as a rookie, all with points and assists, and was in the bottom fifth of point guards in points per shot attempt, as per Cleaning the Glass.

In 10 games and seven starts this season, Fox has already scored at least 20 points five times. He has two double-doubles and a triple-double under his belt. And although he’s still not elite, Fox went from the 17th percentile of point guards to the 78th in terms of his points per shot attempt. Essentially, he went from a toxic black hole to a productive, high-end point guard offensively.

With that transformation, the Sacramento Kings have been transformed as well. Sacramento has been, for a long time, an absolute joke. Aside from a few brief moments in the DeMarcus Cousins years, the Kings have been a long way from being relevant since about 2006. Fox was eight years old the last time his franchise made a playoff appearance.

Sacramento was blitzed by a Milwaukee Bucks team that has blown out opponents at home all season on Sunday, but the Kings still sit at 6-4 ten games into the season. Somehow, the Kings have a better record than the Thunder, Jazz, Rockets, Lakers, and Pelicans.

For both Sacramento’s and Fox’s reinventions to last, the young point guard will need to keep evolving. Most of his shots have been coming from the same places, aside from moving some of his mid-range shots closer to the basket. The real difference has been his conversion on those short mid-rangers, which Fox was hitting at a 55 percent clip going into Sunday’s game. For comparison’s sake, he was a 34 percent shooter from those areas in his rookie year.

Developing a more sustainable 3-point attack would go a long way to making it easier to buy this new version of De’Aaron Fox. Unfortunately, he was actually a percentage point worse on 3-pointers going into the Bucks game, although he did hit two of his four attempts in Milwaukee.

A raised assist percentage signals Fox is becoming a better playmaker too, but still, all of this feels like it might not be enough if he can’t start hitting 3s at a better clip than 30 percent. Those mid-rangers won’t always fall that often for Fox — confirmed mid-range assassin DeMar DeRozan has never finished a full season at 50 percent or better from that short mid-range area, and he’s well-known for being one of the best mid-range jump shooters in the league.

If, or maybe when, Fox’s hot shooting from that range peters off, he’ll need something else to go to in order to keep his Kings relevant.

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