The Sacramento Kings did their best to create the right situation for De'Aaron Fox in his rookie season. They signed veteran George Hill to mentor him. They brought him along slowly at first and they let him work his way into the rotation. When it was clear he was the team's best option at the point guard spot, they traded Hill away and handed him the reins.
It wasn't a perfect first season in the league for Fox. He battled consistency issues, like most young players do, but he also showed flashes of brilliance. By the season's end, there was a clear outline of what he needed to do during the summer to take the next step.
Expectations are high coming into Fox's sophomore season. He'll come into camp as the clear starter and it's on him to push the tempo and drive the Kings' offense.
Fox plays with a speed and a moxie that you need from the lead guard position. At 6-foot-3, with a 6-foot-7 wingspan, the Kentucky product has the size and length to be an effective weapon on both ends of the court.
A natural slasher, Fox's first step is one of the best in the NBA. He needs to improve his ball handling and decision making in a crowd, but he projects as an elite finisher at the rim. As he develops a better understanding of the NBA game, his ability to get past his man on the perimeter will open easy opportunities for his teammates as well.
There isn't a faster guard in the league from one end of the court to the other and the Kings have built their roster with this in mind. It's on Fox to get the ball and push the tempo, but he has the skillset and the weapons around him to make the Kings a fun and exciting team to watch.
On the defensive end, Fox is a work in progress. When he's locked in, Fox has shown that he can stay with anyone in the league. Very few players come out of the college game as elite defenders, and Fox has a chance to improve greatly on this side of the ball.
Listed at 175-pounds, Fox needs to come back bigger and stronger in year two if he hopes to hold up and compete at a high level for 82 games. He's a wiry player, so it might take a few offseasons of hitting the weights hard for his body to learn how to maintain the added size.
Shot selection was a major issue in year one for Fox, as was perimeter accuracy. He shot better in catch-and-shoot situations with his feet set, but that doesn't play to his strengths. Of his 797 shot attempts as a rookie, 545 were considered jump shots. That means that 68.4 percent of his shots were jumpers and he hit just 35.4 percent of those attempts.
Fox shot just 30.7 percent from long range last season, which will need to improve. During the month of January, Fox knocked down 42.5 percent from behind the arc, but as the rookie wall set in, his numbers dipped substantially. He'll likely come back stronger and more prepared for the rigors of the long NBA season, which should help with his perimeter consistency.
Despite playing primarily at the point guard position last season, Fox finished with just 4.4 assists per game and an assist rate of 24.6 percent. He'll need to take the next step as a distributor and the team's new uptempo style should help his assist numbers.
As a defender, Fox has tremendous upside, but he needs to play out the entire shot clock. In his rookie campaign, he had moments where he played incredible defense only to have a mental lapse for a few seconds. There is no reason why he shouldn't improve in this area.
Path to Improvement
Pick a spot, any spot. As players develop in the league, they usually find a few places on the floor that become their comfort zone. Coaching staffs work to get players to those spots on the court, with the hope of increasing the chances that ball goes through the hoop.
Fox's shot charts show that he has yet to define his hot spots on the floor. He's clearly more comfortable from the left side of the court, which plays to his strong hand. Fox is also more confident taking a step or two inside the 3-point line than he is from outside.
Fox needs to finish at the rim better. He needs to improve from the perimeter and take fewer mid-range jumpers. But maybe most important to his development, is he needs to find comfort zones that fit his game best. When shot distribution is added, it paints a vivid picture of chaos and helps better explain how a player of Fox's talent shot just 41.2 percent from field in his rookie season.
This is mostly a young player issue. These problem usually improves over time, but with Fox slated to play heavy minutes, it's better to find a few safe zones for him to flourish in and then add more room for freelancing as his confidence and game grows.
It's Fox's show to run. He'll get help from newly acquired Yogi Ferrell, but expect him to be the primary ball handler and offensive centerpiece this season in Sacramento. He has the potential to be an elite player at his position.
The Kings are expecting big things from their 20-year-old point guard. They are tailoring their offense to highlight his strengths and there is hope that he's gotten stronger and improved his overall game during his first real NBA offseason.
After posting 11.4 points and 4.4 assists in 27.8 minutes per game as a rookie, expect those numbers to jump substantially in year two. If things go as planned, Fox could easily average 15-plus points and seven assists in 32 minutes per game this season. There is potential for more, but the point guard spot is one of the toughest positions to learn in professional sports.