Don’t look now, but the Sacramento Kings currently are tied for 6th place in the Western Conference standings with a 16-13 record more than one-third of the way through the season.
One of the biggest contributing factors to the Kings’ success is the play of second-year point guard and former Kentucky Wildcat, De’Aaron Fox.
Fox, the 5th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, played decently in his first NBA season after a stellar freshman year at Kentucky, but Fox has taken his play to a new level in his second year, and in turn has had a major role in elevating the play of the entire team.
That’s why Fox should be the early frontrunner for the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award.
Given annually since the 1985-86 season, the award honors the player who has shown the most progress during the regular season. Over the years, several notable names have been bestowed this honor.
Chris Jackson, Jalen Rose, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Kevin Love, Paul George, Jimmy Butler, C.J. McCollum, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Victor Oladipo, just to name a few.
Fox should be next on that list if he keeps up his current pace.
In recent years, the NBA has seemingly had an aversion to giving the award to second-year players. The last time the award was given to a player in their second year in the league was in the 2006-07 season when Monta Ellis was presented the award.
But Fox’s notable improvements so far this year are hard to ignore, and thus should make him the early leader for the award.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
2017-2018 (73 games): 11.6 points per game, 2.8 rebounds per game, 4.4 assists per game, 1 steal per game, 0.3 blocks per game, 41.2 percent from the field, 30.7 percent from three, 11.2 Player Efficiency Rating, -0.6 Win Shares
2018-2019 (29 games): 18.5 points per game, 3.6 rebounds per game, 7.5 assists per game, 1.6 steals per game, 0.6 blocks per game, 48.2 percent from the field, 39.6 percent from three, 19.1 Player Efficiency Rating, 2.4 win share
Fox has shown notable improvements and even with an increase in minutes and usage, has managed to increase his efficiency levels.
One of the most notable areas of improvement is in his shooting. Fox was not considered much of a threat shooting from the outside coming into the NBA, and did little to change that in his first year, knocking down just a little more than 30 percent from outside. However, in his second year, Fox is hovering around 40 percent from the perimeter while already attempting 91 threes this year.
Fox’s assist numbers place him among the top point guards in the league. He ranks 5th (tied with Nikola Jokic) in the league in total assists with 218, only trailing Kyle Lowry, Jrue Holiday, John Wall, and Ben Simmons.
This season, Fox has shown he is willing and more than capable to do it all to help lead his team to success, creating highlight-reel plays like the one here against the Mavericks.
De’Aaron Fox is unbelievable. Outrebounds DeAndre Jordan, regains his balance and sprints the length of the court for a layup. pic.twitter.com/Bps6K7O0Ob— Alex Kramers (@alexkramers) December 17, 2018
But Fox has also been key for the Kings defensively. In a recent matchup with the Dallas Mavericks, rookie Luka Doncic was dominating the Kings until Fox, despite a significant size difference) took over guarding Doncic and created life a little tougher for him.
De'Aaron Fox defense on Doncic. pic.twitter.com/OAd0eRtwbB— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 17, 2018
Luka Doncic asks for a screen and De'Aaron Fox still blocks him at the rim. pic.twitter.com/dCNShQxe7p— Scott Charlton (@Scott_Charlton) December 17, 2018
If Fox continues on this trend or even takes it up another level, and the Kings contend for a playoff spot, the NBA will have a hard time ignoring the impact Fox has had in Sacramento and should name him the NBA’s Most Improved Player.