It was late May of 2017, and the NBA Draft was fast approaching.
The upcoming class was heralded as one of the deepest in years, especially in the top seven or so. While Markelle Fultz was the consensus number one pick among NBA executives, the order after Fultz was much more subjective.
Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and De’Aaron Fox were all legitimate number two pick candidates.
We know how the draft ended up shaking out, but it is tough to argue that the order would not be drastically different if it was done over again knowing what we do now.
With a 2019 perspective, it is fair to say some were drafted too high, and some were drafted too low. If the draft were to be done over again, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball would almost certainly not be the two top picks.
Among candidates who potentially waited too long to be selected on draft day are Tatum and Fox.
We witnessed Tatum explode into the NBA in his rookie season, while players like Fultz, Ball, and Jackson were clearly projects.
De’Aaron Fox was drafted fifth in the 2017 NBA Draft by the Sacramento Kings, who ended up getting a phenomenal player in Fox.
In Fox’s second year as a pro, he has shown tremendous growth as a player, in a short amount of time.
His progression has helped propel the Sacramento Kings to a surprising level this season, who have been quite the story.
To really appreciate what Fox has done in terms of growth in his second season, we need to establish a baseline. Here are some measurable categories from Fox, in his rookie season, last year.
2017-2018 season averages: 11.6 points, 2.8 rebounds, 4.4 assists, 1 steal, 2.7 free throw attempts, 41% field goal percentage, 30% three-point percentage.
It is important to mention that these rookie numbers are nothing to overlook. They may not be flashy, but considering his circumstance and the state of Sacramento basketball last year, Fox produced as he was expected to.
Now, let’s look at Fox’s same averages halfway through his second season as a pro:
2018-2019 season averages (44 games played): 17.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, 7.3 assists, 1.8 steals, 5.5 free throw attempts, 47% field goal percentage, 38% three-point percentage.
Fox has increased his scoring output by 55% per contest, is grabbing 25% more rebounds, getting 65% more assists, 80% more steals, and getting to the free throw line twice as much as last season.
While Fox has made drastic increases in all crucial areas, getting 1.8 steals per game is a bigger deal than many realize.
Steals is by far the most effort based statistic in basketball, and Fox increased his steals per game by 80%.
Fox currently holds the longest active streak in the NBA of having one steal per game, at 15 straight.
Just under two steals per game may sound pedestrian, but it is good for eighth in NBA currently.
Fox is trailing only, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard, Robert Covington, James Harden, Russell Westbrook and Paul George. Elite company.
Fox’s innate ability to swipe the ball from his opponents, made him notorius for his quick hands at a young age.
Fox earned the nickname “Swipa The Fox” as a kid. Nothing has changed since then.
Fox combines his quickness with an undying effort to provide suffocating defense. It is as simple as that. You could dive deep into defensive stats, but Fox could care less for analytics.
“Everybody looks at all the analytics and all that shit, and it is what it is, but I just want to change the game defensively when I’m on the court,” Fox said.
Fox isn’t kidding. Neither was I, when I said Fox is fast.
Sports Science showcased just how fast Fox is. Measuring the time it take to get the from the top of the key to the baseline, Fox finished in just 1.28 seconds.
That is 15% faster than Kyrie Irving, who was tested in the same lab, at 1.5 seconds.
Speed as a runner is somewhat overlooked in the NBA with such a small court, but that is not the only speedy attribute Fox possesses.
The other test conducted in the sports science lab was a test of Fox’s reflexes.
The soon-to-be NBA draftee was pitted against a professional boxer, Gerald Washington. The test involved a light flashing next to one of two basketballs, and the times it took for each athlete to react was recorded.
Washington, who has made a living with his hand speed, lost six of the nine rounds.
It looks like Fox has a backup plan if basketball does not work out, but that does not seem likely.
De’Aaron Fox is one of the overlooked guards from the 2017 NBA Draft, and he will not be overlooked for much longer.