Scouting report by Matt Kamalsky. Video analysis by Mike Schmitz
The most recent in what is evolving into a storied tradition of Kentucky point guards under John Calipari, De'Aaron Fox had a tremendous freshman season overcoming some nagging injuries to play his best basketball of the season in March and propelling the Wildcats to a near Final Four berth.
The catalyst for Kentucky's twelth ranked offense and seventh ranked defense via KenPom, Fox was an absolute game-changer when healthy, living up to his billing as a consensus top-10 prospect in the class of 2016, and winning First Team All-SEC honors for his efforts. Averaging 16.7 points, 4.6 assists, and 4 rebounds per game, Fox put together a strong case to be considered alongside the likes of Lonzo Ball, Josh Jackson, Jayson Tatum, and Markelle Fultz at the top of the 2017 NBA Draft.
Fox's intrigue at the next level starts with his tremendous size and speed for a point guard. Standing 6'4 in shoes with a 6'6 wingspan, Fox is both taller and longer than the average point guard selected in the NBA Draft Lottery among those our extensive measurements database covers. On top of his size, Fox possesses great explosiveness as a leaper and a degree of speed and quickness that made him next to impossible to stay in front of at the college level with the ball on his hands. If there is a knock against Fox from a physical perspective, it is his wiry frame. Tipping the scales around 185 with spindly legs, the Houston native is stronger than he looks on first glance, but handles contact far better sometimes than others on both ends.
Here's a closer look at the strengths Fox displayed throughout his time at Kentucky:
Fox's physical tools play a key role in his offensive ability at this point in his career, as he showed the ability to get to his spots on the floor effortlessly last season. Jet quick with the ball, Fox is a blur in the open floor, generating 31% of his possessions in Transition and finishing the year ranked first among power conference players, scoring 5.9 points per game on the break according to Synergy Sports Technology.
In the half court, Fox's speed is just as impactful, as 55% of his shots came around the basket despite opposing defenses loading up to defend his drives. Blessed with tremendous burst that makes his hesitation dribbles and quick crossovers all the more effective, Fox was regularly able to simply able to step back, measure his defender, and find his way deep into the paint off the dribble, even without a ball screen. He figures to rank among the league's most elusive guards from the moment he checks into his first NBA game.
Aside from his speed and the pressure it allows him to put on opposing defenses, Fox is a bit of a mixed bag offensively. The lefty finishes above the rim, when he can find a clean route to the basket, has soft touch on his floater, displays impressive body control at times finishing around the rim both in transition and the half court, and shot a very serviceable 59% finishing inside last season overall, but is also prone to driving into brick walls, could stand to improve his right hand, and will get bumped off his route to the rim at times against physical defenders limiting his effectiveness to a degree.
Here's a closer look at the weaknesses Fox displayed throughout his time at Kentucky:
Something similar can be said about Fox as a playmaker, as he makes some tremendous plays throwing lobs and finding angles to feed the open man in drive and dish situations creatively, but is still working on his command in the pick and roll, and has room to polish his decision-making with the ball in his hands on the whole. Averaging 5.8 assists per-40 minutes pace adjusted this season, Fox ranks just above average among players in our top-100. His physical tools afford him quite a bit of potential as a facilitator at the next level, but like most 19-year-old guards, he has plenty of road to cover to reach his potential as a floor general.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle for Fox in his transition to the pros is his lack of consistent jump shooting ability. Shooting the ball with an unreliable release point that comes from the side of his head with a small arm angle, the Cy-Lakes High School (TX) product had an uneven year shooting the ball, making just 31% of his pull-up jumpers, and 20% of his spot up attempts in the half court this season, but connected on a far more respectable 55% and 36% of those attempts respectively in the month of March.
Opposing defenses made a concerted effort to collapse the floor and play off Fox to coax him into jump shots as the year wore on, and though he made them pay down the stretch for that, his ability to improve his often erratic perimeter shooting and find his range and consistency from the NBA three-point line is a sticking point for his ability to achieve his lofty potential at the next level, as he'll need to be able to keep the defense honest to maximize his shot creating ability.
There's a lot to like about Fox on the defensive end as well, where his lateral quickness allowed him to apply ball pressure impressively last season. When he's engaged, he displays impressive anticipation and active hands hounding the ball. An instinctual defender, Fox nonetheless has some rough edges, losing focus at times, not always fighting through the pick and roll, and lacking a degree of strength to defend bigger guards. Fox has the makings of a very capable defender at the next level with his combination of speed and size, but his ability to get stronger and dial in his efforts consistently will determine just how successful he can be.
In a draft highlighted by the improbable rise to stardom and individual greatness of Markelle Fultz, and the program changing feel and instincts of Lonzo Ball, De'Aaron Fox, who got the best of Ball in the NCAA Tournament, has a chance to grow into the best point guard to come out of this draft, even if his odds may be a little longer than his more advanced peers. Fox will need to get stronger to better handle the rigors of the NBA game, but otherwise has clearly defined, but improvable, weaknesses, and has a chance to be a major long-term piece for whichever team ultimately drafts him if he can develop his body and game around his elite speed and quickness.