One of the reasons the Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox fifth overall in last year’s NBA draft is his ability to get by defenders with his elite speed.
Too often this season, he hasn’t shown that speed, which the Kings could use to help jump-start their offense. Saturday night, he reminded of how much he can impact a game.
Fox played as aggressive as he has all season in the Kings’ 106-98 win over the Denver Nuggets at Golden 1 Center, finishing with team highs of 18 points and seven assists.
That kind of play can help the Kings, who rank last in the NBA in scoring, evolve into the fast-paced, entertaining brand of offense that general manager Vlade Divac covets. Fox can help that happen by consistently playing as he did Saturday.
He regularly attacks in transition, but Saturday the rookie from Kentucky looked to get into the paint in halfcourt sets, too.
“It was just me being aggressive all the time,” Fox said. “No matter if it’s halfcourt or if it’s in transition.”
His assists were his most since he had seven in Nov. 9 in a win over Philadelphia.
Fox went 6 of 8 from the free-throw line, matching his career highs in makes and attempts. It’s a sign he was looking to force the issue. He has the speed and athleticism to force defenders to reach and foul. Sacramento entered Saturday last in the NBA in free-throw attempts, averaging 17.2.
Fox said he’s never shied away from contact, even as he’s listed at 175 pounds, and that he has adjusted to the physicality of the NBA.
And as long as Fox is attacking, the Kings can accept there will be miscues.
“(Fox) made some mistakes, but I thought they were aggressive mistakes,” said Kings coach Dave Joerger.
Fox was the Kings’ only point guard available Saturday with George Hill (personal reasons) and Frank Mason III (bruised right heel) out. Fox said even when they return to the lineup, being aggressive has to be a focus for him, and the other guards.
“Just being able to put pressure on the rim has defenses on their heels,” Fox said. “I was just able to create and if it wasn’t my assist it was a hockey assist – so it was a pass and another pass. Just trying to be able to start the offense and get the defense moving.”
The Kings feed off Fox’s energy. Sacramento has had plenty of games where they lack urgency and appear to be moving two steps slower than their opponent.
So if the Kings want to play with more swagger, it might be up to Fox to make that happen.
“It gives the whole team a lot of confidence,” said Kings guard Garrett Temple of Fox being aggressive. “His quickness, his speed, his ability to get in the lane really helps us offensively, obviously in transition. But even in the halfcourt sets, when the ball gets stagnant, for him to be able to break down people, get in the lane, get fouls or just create a lot of attention. He made some great passes tonight.”