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.
Julian Applebome takes a closer look at Kentucky freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox's 39-point, 4-assist, 3 rebound performance against UCLA in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. The projected top-10 pick dominated the game from start to finish, looking incredibly aggressive offensively and outplaying potential #1 pick Lonzo Ball.
After losing their first matchup against UCLA on their home court in December, Kentucky got the upper hand on a neutral floor in Memphis this time around, in no small part due to Fox's tremendous performance. Fox showed his outstanding speed, body control and new-found scoring mentality all game long attacking UCLA's defense and finishing with floaters and layups at the rim, as well as getting to the free throw line 15 times. He didn't make a single 3-pointer, and wasn't looking to playmake much for others, but the fact that he was able to carry Kentucky offensively in such an important setting will likely resonate greatly with NBA talent evaluators considering what was at stake.
Julian Applebome is a video analyst for DraftExpress. Follow him on twitter and check out the DraftExpress Video section. He will be breaking down the NBA draft in digital format all year long for us.
Mike Schmitz takes a closer look at Kentucky freshman point guard De'Aaron Fox's 20-point, 9-assist performance against UCLA. The projected lottery pick matched up with a variety of different types of players, leading to some very strong moments, as well as showing plenty of areas he still has to improve on, on both ends of the floor.
Kentucky ended up losing this game on their home floor, giving up 97 points to UCLA, the most ever by a John Calipari coached team.
A horde of NBA scouts and executives were present in Lexington, as this was an ideal evaluation setting for talent evaluators to observe at least a half dozen future first round picks.
Mike Schmitz is the video analyst for DraftExpress. Follow him on twitter and check out the DraftExpress Video section. He will be breaking down the NBA draft in digital format all year long for us.
De'Aaron Fox had a steady Nike Hoop Summit week, culminating in scoring 9 points, with 5 assists, 2 steals, one turnover and a whopping +39 plus-minus rating in just 15 minutes in the actual game.
Fox hasn't changed much physically since he first burst onto the radar a few years back, growing an inch and adding just four pounds since he was first measured as a 15-year old at USA Basketball in 2013. He has good height for a point guard at just under 6'4, with a 6'6 wingspan to compliment his underdeveloped 170 pound frame (with an especially weak lower body). Fox compensates for that with outstanding end to end speed, great quickness and a huge motor on both sides of the court.
Offensively, Fox has some limitations at this stage of his development, particularly as a scorer in the half-court. He has the quickness and ball-handling skills to create his own shot and get to the rim effectively, but struggled to make shots around the basket in traffic all week long, a product of his average strength, length and just-decent touch, particularly with his off hand. He does not have an innate sense for how to create high percentage looks for himself at this stage, which is compounded by his struggles as a perimeter shooter, as he often settles for difficult floaters around or outside the paint, which he finds mixed results with.
As a shooter, Fox does not have bad mechanics, but struggles to translate that to game settings at the moment. His release isn't lightning quick and he doesn't create a great deal of separation from defenders. He will have to work very hard to continue to round out this part of his game.
While still ironing out the kinks in his decision making ability, Fox is a willing and capable distributor, showing great potential as a playmaker throughout the week. With that said, his struggles as a scorer will make it easier for defenses to game-plan against him if he isn't able to improve as a finisher and shooter, particularly in late-clock situations. Still, his quickness, combined with his court vision, gives him a great foundation to build off if he can continue to add polish.
What will allow Fox to make an impact from day one at the college level is his defensive prowess. He brings tremendous intensity to this end of the floor, to go along with his excellent size and quickness. He has quick hands and terrific instincts for swiping at the ball and creating turnovers, which helped him to wreak havoc on the World Team guards in the actual game and create a ton of easy baskets for his teammates.
Fox's size, athleticism, passing and defense gives him a great platform to build off as a NBA prospect, even if scouts will want to see him progress with his skill-level to project him as a top-flight point guard long term.
Possessing excellent size for a point guard, Fox is roughly the same size as former Kentucky standout Brandon Knight who measured 6'3.25 in shoes with a 177-pound frame and a 6'6.75 wingspan at the 2011 Draft Combine. Fox has all the tools to be a very good long-term prospect at the point guard position, especially if his frame continues to mature.
Strengths -Good size for a point guard at 6'3 or 6'4 -Elite defender. Tremendous lateral quickness and technique. Consistently stayed in front of some of the country's quickest guards. -Gets skinny to fight over the top of screens. Doesn't allow himself to get hit. -Impressive anticipation as an on ball defender. Able to read which way the ball handler is going to go. -Lightning quick hands. 3.6 steals and 5.2 rebounds per-40 at Nike EYBL (21 games) -Super quick first step. Able to get pieces of the paint without a ball screen. Slight changes of speed. Uses Eurosteps. -Very good ball handler. Mixes in combo moves. -Excellent distributor. Willing to make the simple play. Moves the ball ahead in transition. Nice touch on lobs. Can make all the necessary passes out of pick and roll. 7.2 assists per-40 at EYBL. -Doesn't try and do too much or always go for the homerun pass. -Willing to use either hand around the rim. Nice touch on his floater. -Very capable pull up shooter, especially going to his left. Good footwork in mid-range spots.
Weaknesses -Struggles to make shots consistently, especially with his feet set. Much better in mid-range spots than from three. Career 75/266 (28%) for 3 in 76 games in DX database. -Doesn't get great rotation. More comfortable pulling up going to his left than his right. Can improve his ability to create space. -Fairly tall for a point guard but he's rail thin (170 pounds). Legs are twigs. No ankles. Elite defender due to his quickness but how will he handle defending stronger guards? -Has only added four pounds to his frame in past two years according to his three separate USA Basketball measurements in that span. Will his body-type affect his durability long-term? -Quick but isn't a freak leaper off of one foot. Doesn't get great extension around the rim (6' 6 wingspan). -Can improve his ability to absorb contact around the rim -Good feel but does have a tendency to pull up for quick, contested 2s. Still evolving as a facilitator in the half-court
Outlook Despite playing only one full day due to injury, Fox made a strong case for honors as the top point guard prospect at the Junior National Team Mini-Camp, regardless of class. Fox was far and away the best perimeter defender at the camp (and maybe in all of high school basketball) and he has the quickness, handle and vision to make his teammates better while scoring enough to keep the defense honest.
De'Aaron Fox, 6-4, PG, Katy, Texas, 2016 High School Class
The lighting quick point guard played only 21 minutes in the entire tournament after injuring his wrist in USA West's first game against Dominican Republic a less than stellar performance for Fox as he scored only seven points (3-of-11 shooting) and dished out two assists. But despite his struggles making jumpers from the perimeter and converting lightly contested shots around the rim, Fox's talent was still very evident.
The 6' 4 floor general showed all the makings of a lead guard, moving the ball ahead in transition, hitting the roll man in stride out of pick and roll, and breaking his man down with his elite quickness and advanced handle to eventually kick out to shooters or lob it up to bigs around the rim.
Fox finished with only two assists, but his vision, timing and unselfishness as a passer proved to be on another level compared to other lead guards at the tournament.
Fox also knocked down a pull up jumper in the lane and, although he struggled to convert, showed a willingness to use both hands around the rim comfortably.
Fox's most glaring weakness, however, reared its ugly head as defenders were able to go under screens or close out short due to the point guard's struggles making shots with range. He sports a fairly mechanical jumper that gets very limited rotation, and appears to be more comfortable shooting off the bounce than off the catch at this stage. For as good of a passer as he is, Fox does have a tendency to force up contested jumpers at times.
Defensively, Fox did a nice job playing at the top of USA West's zone and pressuring the ball to force turnovers, but he also does gamble a bit too often in the half court. Fox's injury and less than stellar game (from a scoring perspective) was a disappointing, but even in 31 minutes of ho-hum play, it's hard not to like Fox's size, elite speed, ball handling ability, court vision, and lateral quickness.
Strengths: -Tremendous quickness. -Gets from end to end in a blink. -Draws fouls. -Excellent in transition. -Takes charges. -Lefty. -Very good defender. -Moves feet very well. -Put pressure on the ball. -Great quickness. -Very explosive. -Plays above the rim.
Weaknesses: -Limited scorer. -Very thin legs. -Average touch around the basket. -Poor shot-selection. -Too many off the dribble jumpers. -Only plays at one speed. skinny frame, legs. -Not a good shooter at all. -Decent mechanics but poor touch. -Ugly looking floaters from 15 feet.