All along, this is what De’Aaron Fox wanted. That makes him different.
Some NBA draft prospects in recent years did all they could to avoid the Kings, who looked like the most dysfunctional franchise in the league.
But perhaps things really are changing because Fox was ecstatic to be the fifth overall selection by the Kings on Thursday. He headlines the remodeling of the Kings roster after what the franchise deemed a great night for their mission to change the perception and culture of the franchise.
“It was a guy that we all loved, and if we had the No. 1 pick he would he would be our guy,” said Kings general manager Vlade Divac of Fox.
Fox said he loved the family vibe he felt from the Kings and the fans, who he said reminded him of the fans at Kentucky.
“I’m pretty sure out of any team, Kings fans showed me the most love,” Fox said.
The Kings traded the 10th pick, acquired from New Orleans in the DeMarcus Cousins trade, to Portland for the 15th and 20th picks. The Kings selected North Carolina small forward Justin Jackson at No. 15 and Duke power forward Harry Giles at No. 20.
The Kings added Kansas point guard Frank Mason III with their second round pick, 34th overall.
The Kings addressed their needs for depth at point guard and in the frontcourt with players who possess personalities they believe will blend in to a culture they hope will eventually lead back to the postseason.
“We’re building something here special and you can’t do that overnight, in a month or in a year,” Divac said. “We started last year and we just want to add to the talent that we have.”
This won’t be an easy process.
The Kings are even younger now, adding four rookies to a roster that is certain to be among the youngest in the league next season, which doesn’t bode well in terms of wins and losses. The Kings are poised to have 10 players with three years or less of experience.
And unless the Kings sign a veteran point guard, two rookies will be running the team. In Fox, the Kings see a potential star with the ability to impact the game on both ends of the floor with his speed.
“Just leadership and being able to run a team,” is what Fox said the Kings want from him. “Try to be a solid point guard your first few years in the league and they feel like I can be an All-Star and they have the utmost confidence in me.”
Fox (6-foot-3, 170 pounds) averaged 16.7 points, 4.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds as a freshman for the Wildcats. He was perhaps the fastest player in the draft and has said he believes he’s even faster when he has the ball.
Fox said as much as he wanted to be a King, the feeling was mutual.
“I felt like they really wanted me,” Fox said. “I knew some of the players, and chemistry is up when you really like who you’re playing with, and I feel like I’m able to turn a franchise around. And us getting Justin Jackson, one of my brothers, and Harry Giles, another close friend, I feel like we can work together and try to make something special.”
Fox was AAU teammates with Jackson, who was the Atlantic Coast Conference Player of the Year for the Tar Heels, who he helped lead to a national championship.
Jackson (6-8, 200) averaged 18.3 points as a junior. He entered the draft last season, but withdrew his name from consideration.
“Going back I think I matured a ton,” Jackson said. “I got a whole lot better ... so hopefully I can come in right away and make a difference and help the team.”
Giles averaged 3.9 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman as he worked his way back from a torn ACL his senior year of high school. Prior to the injury, some considered Giles the top high school prospect in the country.
Giles is a 6-11 power forward who showed the skills of a much smaller player prior to his injury.
Mason was a consensus All-American and National Player of the Year for the Jayhawks. He’s the only senior the Kings drafted. He averaged 20.9 points and 5.2 assists.