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Sacramento Kings

De'Aaron Fox's second year leap is powering the Sacramento Kings' playoff push

#De'Aaron Fox

Last year's rookie class was one of the best crop of first-year players we've ever seen. The three finalists for the Rookie of the Year award - Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum - all starred and had big moments throughout the season and in the playoffs.

However, there's been one player of the class of 2017 that has seen his averages leap in year two, even more so than the three Rookie of the Year finalists.

His name? De'Aaron Fox.

Sacramento made the conscious effort to play faster than it had last season when they gave Fox the keys to the offence. For a young point guard, that could've been a recipe for disaster - learning a completely new system and having a lot more responsible than he had in his rookie year.

The Kings' pace went from 95.59 in 2017-18, dead last in the NBA, to 104.24 this season, good for second fastest in the league. A dramatic shift, but it hasn't slowed Fox down.

With more possession and opportunity to have the rock in his hand, Fox's production would naturally go up, but his efficiency has gone up with it.

To go along with the 17.4 points, 7.3 assists and 3.6 rebounds he's averaging per game, Fox's player efficiency rating is currently at 18.6, up from last year's 11.2. His field goal percentage has risen as well, up to 46% from last year's 41%.

But the biggest leap and surprise has been his 3-point shooting, which is now up to 37% on the year. Fox is making teams pay the price for allowing him to shoot the triple and he's doing it in multiple ways.

In one of his better shooting games of the year, where Fox went 3-for-4 from three against the Phoenix Suns, he displayed the ways he can make defences pay for sleeping on his range.

In this video, Fox uses the Willie Cauley-Stein screen and when Suns guard De'Anthony Melton goes under, Fox rises up and drills the jimmy:

In this second video from the same game, the Suns' defence breaks down and goes into scramble mode. They do a good job of closing out on "known" shooters Buddy Hield and Bogdan Bogdanovic but fail to use the same sense of urgency when Fox gets the rock, and he makes them pay for arriving late:

Last season those two shots are what defences tried to get Fox to take, and he struggled to make them with any sort of consistency. This season it's been a totally different approach and result.

The Kings are currently on the outside looking in of the playoff race as they visit the Toronto Raptors on Tuesday night, but with the development of Fox and his improvements in shooting and overall efficiency, it won't be long before Sacramento ends the NBA's longest current playoff drought.

The 2017 Draft class is special - Simmons, Mitchell and Tatum will be great players for a long time, but when you mention those three don't forget to mention Fox.

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