De’Aaron Fox has always made some noise in the NBA since joining the league in 2017. For years, many fans recognized his potential as an athletic, two-way guard. However, whether it was because of his shooting inefficiencies, lack of consistency, or simply the Sacramento Kings not being a very good team, Fox never quite received the recognition that he probably deserved. That was until last season when Fox and the Kings finally broke into the NBA scene. Fox put together an outstanding 2022-23 season while leading the Kings back to the playoffs after a 16-year playoff drought. Fox’s stellar performance earned him his first All-Star appearance, first All-NBA selection, and the inaugural NBA Clutch Player of the Year award.
Going into this season, the expectations for Fox and the Kings were much higher than in recent history. While there is a slight argument as to whether or not the Kings have met some of those expectations, there is not much of an argument regarding Fox exceeding those expectations. This season, Fox has been on an absolute tear. Due to an ankle injury just three games into this season, he has only played in 10 contests. However, Fox is displaying the progression from All-Star to MVP-caliber player.
His ability as a scorer has improved from last season. His command of the Kings’ juggernaut offense is that much more apparent. On top of that, he has continued to be one of the league’s most clutch players. Couple all this with him being the best player on a contending team in the West, and there’s no doubt that Fox is becoming an early-season MVP candidate.
De’Aaron Fox Is Going From All-Star to MVP Candidate
Becoming an Elite Three-Level Scorer
One of Fox’s most notable improvements this season has been his enhanced ability to score on all three levels. Since his time as a Kentucky Wildcat over six years ago, Fox always could score inside with his impressive finishing ability and speed. However, for a while, Fox’s outside shooting always made fans nervous. Even harping back as recently as last season, he averaged around 32% from three-point range on four to five attempts per game throughout his career.
However, this season, Fox has truly found his shooting stroke. He is averaging 37.2% shooting from three on 8.6 attempts per game. Fox’s previous highest three-point attempt average was 5.5 in 2020-21. For him to now be a serious three-point shooting threat makes his scoring prowess and that of the Kings much more dangerous. With teams having to respect Fox from three, it opens up many driving lanes within the paint area that either Fox or Domantas Sabonis could exploit to create easier scoring opportunities for the Kings’ offense.
Outside of his revamped three-point shooting, Fox has continued his reign as one of the best midrange players in the league. So far this season, he is shooting 54.7% on two-point shots, averaging 13.7 attempts per game. Fox is also averaging 59.6% shooting for shots attempted from 10 feet within the basket. With Fox now being a legitimate three-level scorer, he could very well climb in his ranking as one of the top scorers in the league. It will add to his MVP candidacy if he can further establish that title.
Significant Impact On the Court Versus Off the Court
One of the biggest markers of a true MVP-caliber player is the difference between them being on the court versus off the court for their team. For the Kings, the difference is relatively noticeable when Fox is on the court compared to when he is not.
This season, the Kings have a 119.4 offensive rating when Fox is on the court. For reference, that ranks third in the league. However, when Fox is off the court, the Kings’ offensive rating drops to 111.3. That ranks 24th in the league. In the 10 games played with Fox so far, the Kings have scored fewer than 112 points only once. When Fox was out, the Kings scored fewer than 112 points in four games, losing three matches.
When Fox is on the court, The Kings’ offense runs much smoother and faster, matching their collective style. Fox’s pick-and-roll and dribble handoff actions with Sabonis pose such a threat that it forces defenses to collapse a lot of times, opening up a lot of scoring opportunities for the other Kings players. Fox’s ability to run the fastbreak and get to the rim in a blur creates many opportunities for the Kings to score at the rim or, at the very least, draw more fouls on the opposing defense. The Kings ultimately just don’t operate in the same way without Fox. For one player to have such a positive impact on such a high-powered offensive team, it really makes the case for them being one of the more valuable players in the league.
Fox is Carrying the Kings to Prominence
Ultimately, the success of the Kings will most likely determine Fox’s jump to MVP consideration. Last season, the Kings finally returned to postseason action, led by Fox’s exceptional play. The Kings managed to win 48 games and finish third in the Western Conference standings. While they fell short in the first round of the playoffs to their rival, the Golden State Warriors, the Kings’ leap from a lottery team to one of the top teams in the league was one of the most noteworthy storylines last season.
This season, the Kings face something they haven’t encountered in over a decade, and that is having an expectation to be a playoff team. While this adds some pressure, it also signifies the come-up of a storied franchise. For Fox, being the best player and leader of such a team could make huge waves in his career.
Most of the time, MVPs are classified not only by their stats but also by their impact on their team’s success. Suppose Fox can carry the Kings to another playoff berth and potentially another top-three seed in the conference. In that case, we will have to begin recognizing Fox as not just another All-Star but an MVP-caliber player in this league.