De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

CONTEXT

De’Aaron Fox is now perceived as the third best point guard in this draft class — ranked fifth overall in Draft Express’ top 100, after leading Kentucky to 32 wins in 38 games and within two points of a Final Four appearance.

Malik Monk will be a lottery pick as well and Endrice Adebayo still has some chance of ending up a first round choice but the six-foot-three point guard was the undisputed best player on that team, the engine of the Wildcats’ 12th-ranked offense and the top playmaker on their seventh-ranked defense[1].

As we will go through later, how highly regarded a defender the 19-year-old should be is up for debate but Fox’s performance on offense was no doubt impressive, especially when you consider spacing the floor to create clear driving lanes for his point guards has never been much of a priority for John Calipari, who prefers size at all positions instead.

The Wildcats had seven players logging over 600 minutes last season but only two of them (Monk and stretch big Derek Willis) took over 100 three pointers. Mychal Mulder shot 96 of those for a superb average of 11.4 attempts per 40 minutes but he only logged 338 minutes, a good chunk of them in garbage time.

ATTACKING THE LANE

So, the fact Fox showed his top skill to be attacking the lane offers some superstar potential. The logic is, if he was that good at getting to the basket despite some of the lineups he was part of, imagine what he could do when he gets to a league where opening up the floor is becoming more and more emphasized by the day.

The lefty averaged 0.94 points per play[2], despite the fact he posted a .498 effective field goal percentage. That’s the case because he took 48.1% of his live ball attempts at the basket[3] and averaged 7.9 foul shots per 40 minutes[4].

Fox is not perfect; he has shown a strong preference for driving left and still drives into crowds a fair amount.

But the pros far outweigh the concerns in this department; Fox has an explosive first step to just blow by his man one-on-one or attacking downhill on middle high pick-and-roll, a lot of quickness to turn the corner out of side pick-and-roll and a tight handle to maneuver his way around those defenders who can stick with him side-to-side initially – as he is able to cross them over, stop-and-start, dribble in-and-out to shake them off balance, pivot his way into a well-coordinated spin move or euro-step to beat the traffic.

At the basket, Fox is explosive enough to leap out of one foot and finish strong when he gets a head of steam but for the most part is a below the basket level finisher in a crowd, showcasing some jaw dropping athletic ability to hang or adjust his body in the air in order to deal with rim protectors contesting his layups.

Fox finished his 215 shots at the rim at a 64.2% clip and 108 of his 138 makes at the basket were a result of unassisted drives (unassisted makes discounting putbacks), though it should be mentioned a good chunk of them came on fast breaks, as he averaged almost six points per game in transition[5].

He’s shown a natural inclination for speeding up the pace of the game — passing ahead off of defensive rebounds or turning on the jets to go end-to-end himself. TV broadcasters always mentioned how under his control Kentucky was posting one of the five shortest times of possession in the country and according to our stats database the Wildcats ranked 18th in the nation in pace after ranking 224th the season prior.

But aside from being a prolific scorer himself and getting the team into its offense before the opponent had a chance to set itself up, Fox also added value with the opportunities he created for his teammates, while simultaneously managing to limit the cost of them.

He is not one of those magicians who can anticipate passing lanes a split second before they come open and his court vision has been questionable at times. But Fox has shown he can consistently get good looks for others, assisting on 28.1% of Kentucky’s scores in his 1,064 minutes on the floor and turning it over on just 13.1% of his possessions, which is pretty good when you put it into the context of his 27.4% usage rate.

He’s constantly aware of the big becoming open in the pick-and-pop, can play with pace patiently waiting for a passing lane when the opposing big shows hard or hedges-and-recovers to prevent him from turning the corner, looks to suck in the help defender up until the last split second before hitting his big men on the dunker spot on drop-off passes, can make a pocket pass and has decent timing on pre-arranged lobs – as his passing out of the pick-and-roll led to an average of 1.24 points per possession[6].

DEFENSE

The other area where Fox excels at is creating events on defense.

There’s some uncertainty regarding his length. The measurements of his wingspan are all over the place on Draft Express’ database. He’s most recently been measured with a six-foot-four wingspan at the Kentucky combine but the measurements in that event have been consistently different than how Kentucky’s players measured elsewhere. Most people say they do that to inflate the kids’ vertical leaps.

Regardless, Fox has put his arms, however long they are, to good use pressing opposing ball-handlers full court with active hands and making plays in the passing lanes, as he averaged two steals per 40 minutes last season.

His athleticism also translated into contributions on the defensive glass, where he collected 12% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor.

As a result of these plays that can be easily quantified, Fox led this draft in defensive rating among point guards, according to our stats’ database.

His individual defense was more of a mixed bag, though.

He arrived at Kentucky known for his technique and anticipation skills in pick-and-roll defense, proving himself able to navigate over screens and beat his man to the spot on the other end, but wasn’t as consistent doing that at the collegiate level.

In isolation defense, Fox has adequate quickness to stay in front of position peers and keep himself in between his man and the basket but lacks strength in his thin 185-pound frame to contain dribble penetration through contact.

The hope is that Fox can eventually become a defender who offers flexibility, switching onto taller wings from time to time and offering enough resistance with his length but up until the point where he grows into his body and no longer is an open invitation for someone to drive at him or post him up, that’s only wishful thinking, so he’ll be someone who needs to be matched up on the opposing point on a full time basis for the foreseeable future.

If that point ever arrives, though, Fox has already shown he can be a good off ball defender thanks to his speed out of a standstill position closing out to spot-up shooters and running them off the three-point line and his balance to staying in front and preventing an easy path to the basket.

SHOOTING

Fox isn’t physically developed yet but given his age, that’s not any type of a deal breaker. He is not necessarily the prototype defender teams are looking for these days but he can make meaningful contributions on that end. And he is a sick close range scorer who puts pressure on the defense and it’s been consistently proven that the best way to get three-point shots still is through a guy who can collapse the opponent with a dribble drive or at least the threat of it.

So, how come Fox is not in the conversation for the number one pick?

That’s because he hasn’t yet developed an outside shot, struggling badly to score away from the basket in his one year at Lexington.

Fox does have a floater to score from the in-between area and has flashed a pull-up jumper from about 10-to-15 feet he can unleash after snaking the pick-and-roll and putting his defender in jail. That’s why his shooting percentage on two-point jumpers (36.2% on 163 attempts) doesn’t look that bad.

However, Fox posed no real threat to opponents when they successfully managed to shell his path to the basket by going under screens or sagging a couple of feet off him on his drives, nailing just 31% of his attempts off the bounce, though perhaps more concerning is the fact that his percentages were worse off the catch, as he shot just 20% on spot-ups and hit just 24.6% of his three-point shots overall, while only feeling confident enough to take just 2.6 such attempts per 40 minutes.

The team that drafts him in the top 10, perhaps as high the third pick, will do so holding on to hope that it is picking an eventual star because Fox’s shot doesn’t look particularly broken and because he converted 73.9% of his 211 foul shots, suggesting a substantial improvement in his percentages might just one tweak away in terms of form in his follow through or simply gaining more strength in his legs to sustain rising up to the same point on every attempt.

[1] According to the metrics adjusted for pace researched at kenpom.com

[2] Researched at Draft Express’ stats database

[3] Researched at hoop-math

[4] Researched at sports-reference

[5] According to research by Draft Express on Synergy Sports

[6] According to research by Draft Express’ Mike Schmitz

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

(First posted at RealGM)

This is kind of rare year for Kentucky. They are good but not excellent. They are not that good but not disappointing. And yet, out of this team might leave their highest draft pick since Anthony Davis, as Fox is currently ranked fifth in Draft Express’ top 100.

The six-foot-three point guard has been excellent breaking down opposing defenses at this level. He’s taken 48.3% of his attempts at the basket, converted at a 65.2% clip there, shot 7.8 free throws per 40 minutes and assisted on 29.9% of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor.

Fox is also considered a very good defender. He presses opponents 35 feet away from the basket and uses his reach to pick their pockets – as he’s averaged 1.9 steals per 40 minutes, did very well in high school navigating over screens and beating his man to the spot with his anticipation skills and contributes in the defensive glass – collecting 13.3% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor – a very good mark for a point guard.

But his struggles as a shooter limit perception of his star potential. He’s missed almost 70% of his 194 shots away from the basket.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

De’Aaron Fox Scouting Report

CONTEXT

Malik Monk has gotten most of the attention due to his scoring prowess but De’Aaron Fox is Kentucky’s best all around player.

The just-turned 19-year-old is the engine of their fifth-ranked offense and the sparkplug of their seventh-ranked defense, according to adjusted metrics at kenpom.com.

Kentucky doesn’t run a well-spaced offense or a switching defense, so it’s entirely up to Fox to control the pace of the game, get enough shots for the other two first-round picks on the team, keep his turnovers down despite driving in traffic often and press opposing ball-handlers at the point of attack.

Fox still has gaps in his skill-set but has produced very well against a tough schedule in order to support his status as a projected top 10 pick, according to Draft Express.

DEFENSE

Fox has impressed the most with his defense up until this point.

He has above average height (six-foot-three) and length (six-foot-six wingspan) for a point guard combined with adequate lateral quickness among position peers. Fox has not always gone over screens at the college level but arrived at Kentucky known for his technique and anticipation skills in pick-and-roll defense, so it’s likely he’s been coached to go under screens consistently due to specific matchups.

Fox is a really good asset to build an elite defense around. He’s proven himself willing to pick up opposing ball-handlers 35 feet away from the rim and can press them with active hands that often generate turnovers. According to basketball-reference, Fox is averaging 2.3 steals per 40 minutes.

He tries using his body to contain penetration but often gets knocked back by opponents with lower centers of gravity due to his lean 185-pound frame. Fox still manages to contest mid-range or close-range attempts fairly well due to his length but that lack of strength probably prevents him from having much positional versatility at this point of his development, which is unfortunate because Fox has also proven himself a good off-ball defender.

He has the speed to closeout to spot-up shooters and run them off the three-point line and then the balance to stay in front and prevent an easy path to the basket. Fox has also used his length to make plays in the passing lanes and he’s an elite defensive rebounder for his position, collecting 14% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor.

OFFENSE

Fox naturally speeds up the pace of the game transitioning from defense to offense, passing ahead or flying up the court with the ball. TV broadcasts always mention how under his control Kentucky has posted one of the five shortest times of possession in the country, while getting good shots in the break or the secondary break.

In the half-court, the Wildcats try to get Monk open off screens about half the time and when they can’t, they rely heavily on Fox to create something off a high ball-screen.

Kentucky does not space the court adequately. For all the expectation of Derek Willis becoming a bigger part of the rotation this season, he’s only sixth in the team in minutes. It often plays two centers together, resulting in a lot of traffic for Fox to deal with in dribble penetration.

But he’s navigated this challenge quite well for the most part. Fox is a very polished ball handler for someone his age, turning it over on just 13.6% of his possessions. He can play with pace in the pick-and-roll, showcasing several dribble moves to manipulate his defender and get to the lane. Fox can stop-and-start in a pinch to wait for driving lanes to clear and turn the corner when he’s iced and has an in-and-out dribble to get by the big on his way to the basket when he’s attacking downhill. In isolation, he’s shown a nifty crossover to shake his defender off balance and get to where he wants to go.

At the basket, Fox has flashed some explosiveness elevating out of one foot to finish strong when he’s attacking downhill. But for the most part, he’s been a below the rim finisher in traffic – though a damn good one. Fox can adjust his body in the air and use his length for reverse finishes to score around rim protectors. According to hoop-math, he’s converted 65.8% of his 73 shots at the basket, which account for 47.4% of his shots. He is also averaging 8.2 foul shots per 40 minutes.

As a passer off the bounce, Fox has shown nice court vision in order to create for others in a regular basis, assisting on a third of Kentucky’s scores when he’s been on the floor. He’s constantly aware of the big becoming open in the pick-and-pop, looks to suck in the defense then hit his big men on the dunker spot on drop-off passes and has great timing on his lobs. Due to the nature of Kentucky’s poor spacing, it’s unclear how well he can hit his big man on the pocket pass or if he can make passes across his body to the opposite side of the court, though.

That said, the biggest gaps in Fox’s skill-set at this point of his development regard his shot selection and his shooting in general.

Maybe it’s because there’s often too much of a crowd on his path to the goal or simply because he has an inflated perception of his jumper, Fox takes a lot of pull-up shots for someone who doesn’t have the production to support his decisions. He’s taking more than a third of his shots from mid-range despite the fact he’s missed 71% of those attempts. Fox elevates with nice balance and his release doesn’t appear to be completely broken or anything but the ball rarely goes in, which has led to opponents consistently going under ball screens, which has compounded the issue.

He has also struggled on catch-and-shoot attempts from three-point range, missing 22 of his 26 shots from beyond the arc. With that as the case, Fox limits how diverse his offense can be because he is not a viable participant away from the ball.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor and at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara