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De’Aaron Fox, Kings

Kings’ De’Aaron Fox gets the chance to enhance his case for stardom in NBA play-in

It has been a disappointing, chaotic season for the Sacramento Kings. That said, they have the chance to make the Western Conference playoffs when the regular season resumes in late-July. Simultaneously, the eight-game regular-season gives De’Aaron Fox the chance to further enhance his case for stardom.

Fox, the number-five pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, endured a stagnated rookie season where he was inefficient, a mere respectable guard, and part of a Kings team struggling to find itself. From there on out, he has been as advertised: an impact player on both ends of the floor.

Last season Fox averaged 17.3 points, 7.3 assists, 3.8 rebounds, and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 37.1 percent from beyond the arc. His game has seen more growth from both a production and impact standpoint this season.

Averaging 20.4 points, 6.8 assists, 4.0 rebounds, and 1.4 steals per game, Fox has been among the most productive guards in the NBA.

Fox is a multi-faceted player. He’s exceptional at getting to the rim off the dribble, can stick jump shots off the dribble, and manufactures points at a high level. This is precisely what the sport asks of a franchise playmaker.

Meanwhile, De’Aaron Fox is a great floor general. While a high-octane scorer, he doesn’t force shots. He can slow the game down, effectively run an offense, and find the open man; he’s a steady offensive headman. Fox is also adept at forcing turnovers, and he holds his own on that end of the floor, as a whole.

His play has been overshadowed by a bevy of discouraging storylines for the Kings. These include the team underperforming, Buddy Hield supposedly being unhappy, Bogdan Bogdanovic’s looming free agency, and Luke Walton’s first year at the helm.

The Kings entered this season with playoff aspirations. With a budding core (Hield, Fox, Bogdanovic, and Marvin Bagley) and veteran offseason additions (Dewayne Dedmon, Trevor Ariza, and re-signing Harrison Barnes) the Kings looked poised for a breakout year. Despite having won 13 of their last 20 games, being three and a half games out of the eighth seed in the conference was far from where expectations were in training camp.

In the weeks leading up to the regular season, Hield’s contract situation was a nagging question mark. Even though they paid him handsomely (four-year, $86 million deal with incentives) rumors have continued to swirl that Hield is unhappy, and he was knocked out of the starting five midseason in favor of Bogdanovic — a soon-to-be free agent.

Last season Sacramento was 39-43 and in the playoff hunt until the final few weeks of the regular season; it was a year where they collectively turned a corner. Afterward, they fired Dave Joerger, paving the way for Luke Walton’s arrival. The former Los Angeles Lakers’ head coach’s arrival is yet to yield any considerable results for the Kings.

The continual growth and success of a budding star naturally take a backseat to the aforementioned fluid situations.

When one rattles off their list of the best point guards in the game, De’Aaron Fox isn’t one of the first names spewed. That’s mostly due to the amplitude of star power at the position.

Fox has the impact and production over the last two seasons to be in that conversation. The way he runs towards the front of the pack? Helping the Kings get to the playoffs and breaking out.

Failing to reach the playoffs or being a quick out in such play is what kept Stephen Curry, John Wall, and Kemba Walker out of the premier point guard conversation in the early stages of their respective careers.

Once they got into the spring festivities and played to their strengths, they brought more life and eyeballs to their games. When we look back on their careers 20 years from now we’ll think about how they were some of the best lead guards of their era.

The Kings will be counted out by some given they’re one of the worst teams in the league’s 22-team restart. At the same time, they’re the same amount of games out of the eighth seed as the ninth-seeded Portland Trail Blazers and 10th-seeded New Orleans Pelicans.

Getting in will be a daunting task but one that if sprung will be gratifying from an internal and external point of view for the Kings. If they power their way to the eighth seed, they’ll garner more confidence about what they can do in a potent Western Conference playoff picture.

Furthermore, if the Kings merely give their first-round opponent a run for their money, they’ll get the NBA world pinpointing their every move in the offseason and perhaps get players wanting to play for them. Think along the lines of the Los Angeles Clippers taking the Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of last year’s playoffs which included two wins on the road.

De’Aaron Fox has the talent and skill set to be a star. His career trajectory has him on pace to be a high-profile player, but if it doesn’t soon include timely shots and victories his individual success won’t hold much weight.

Fox gets the chance to have the ball in his hands in pivotal games where every possession matters. This is his chance to take his game to the next level.