April 25, 2018, 5:16 pm
2017-18 averages: 73 G | 60 GS | 27.8 MP | 11.6 PTS | 2.8 REB | 4.4 AST | 1.0 STL | 0.3 BLK | 2.4 TOV | 41.2 FG% | 30.7 3P% | 72.3 FT% |
De’Aaron Fox was considered somewhat of a project out of Kentucky – his elite speed and ability to handle the ball could theoretically give him an early edge in the NBA, but he still had plenty to learn as a shooter and his body was undeveloped. Despite all of that, being the first player selected by the Kings after trading DeMarcus Cousins gave Fox plenty of expectations to live up to early in his career.
His first few performances gave fans plenty to be optimistic about. Fox regularly caused problems with his speed, and flashes of electric ball handling skills, as well as a seemingly workable jumper, showed exactly what he might be capable of in time. After a strong opening to his career, Fox seemed to hit a wall in November. This wasn’t far outside of what could be reasonably expected for a rookie point guard, but it was slightly concerning to see so early in the season.
Not long after going through the first prolonged slump of his professional career, Fox was forced to deal with his first injury. In a mid-December game against the Minnesota Timberwolves, Fox was forced to exit in the first quarter after running into Karl-Anthony Towns and did not return to the game. A few days later it was announced that he would miss at least two weeks with a partial tear of his right quad.
Early season injuries are never easy to deal with, but the time off did seem to breathe new life into his game. He showed off more shooting ability than most would have expected heading into the All-Star break, and possibly more importantly he began to build a reputation as a player who could get a basket when his team needed it most.
His season would continue to be up-and-down from there on out, but there was still development in his game. Offensively, Fox did a great job of developing his jumper as the season went along. Shooting just over 30 percent from behind the arc certainly isn’t the long-term goal for him, but there’s no doubt that this number was better than expected.
Not only did he impress with his percentages, but his shot became noticeably smoother as the season went on as well. One of the more impressive performances for him this season was in April against the Spurs. He ended up going 3-for-5 from behind the arc, and even more encouraging was his confidence:
You can see in the video above that not only did he feel comfortable taking that shot, he was actually seeking it out. Fox was clearly viewing his 3-point shot as a weapon at times later in the season, and his development as a shooter was what made that possible. He continually worked to simplify his shooting form and speed up his release, allowing him to become a threat off the dribble as well as in catch and shoot situations.
The other part of his game where this was apparent was late in games. Fox unexpectedly developed a reputation as a clutch player this season after hitting shot after shot in close games throughout the season. Stepping up when the team needs it most requires a certain mental toughness, but his athleticism gives him another edge in these situations.
Ultimately, he may have been even more threatening when he was creating these looks for himself. According to NBA stats, Fox shot 31 percent on pull up 3-pointers this season, a higher number than both Donovan Mitchell and Kyle Kuzma. He still needs to work on his touch, but his body control and ability to elevate already make him a threat off the dribble.
There was plenty to be excited about with Fox this season, but he’s still learning the nuances of the game on offense and needs to take advantage of his tools on a more regular basis. In half-court settings, Fox settled far too often for mid-range jumpers and didn’t do a good enough job of finding open looks for his teammates. Without being much of a threat to shoot, Fox will have to work harder than most to find his way to the rim, but being more patient in these situations would help tremendously.
Defense was also an issue for Fox at times, something that most probably wouldn’t have expected after watching him at Kentucky. His effort was lacking a bit at times, but his lack of instincts on that end seemed to be an even bigger issue for him. Fox was regularly caught going the wrong direction when guarding on ball, and his lack of strength made it difficult for him to defend with physicality.
The good news with Fox is that he appears to have a relatively clear path to major improvements. Adding strength should make him a better finisher at the rim, and it should also clear up some of his issues on defense. Adding strength doesn’t happen overnight – or over an offseason – but it’s reasonable to assume that he has plenty of room to grow at just 20 years old.
Generally speaking, resilience was the most prevalent theme for Fox this season. It didn’t matter what slump he was in, what injury he had been dealing with or how big the situation was, Fox was always able to bring effort and focus when his team needed it most. His improvement over the year was encouraging, but it’s the maturity he showed that could eventually allow him to unlock his sky-high potential.
April 22, 2019, 12:42 amRussell Westbrook - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Russell Westbrook went 5-for-21 from the field to finish with 14 points, nine rebounds, seven assists and two treys in Sunday's 98-111 Game 4 loss to the Blazers.
Time and again in this series, it's been evident that Damian Lillard has been playing at a higher level than Westbrook and tonight was a fine example. Lillard was able to shake off his early shooting struggles and come up big in the second half, but Westbrook was still forcing shots and appeared to be on the back foot for most of the game. He's best when he's the one taking it to his opponents. A reactive Westbrook is simply not the star the Thunder need right now, if they want to salvage any hopes of coming back in this first-round series.
April 22, 2019, 12:36 amDennis Schroder - G - Oklahoma City Thunder
Dennis Schroder mirrored his 17-point performance from Friday with another 17-point game in Sunday's loss to the Blazers.
Schroder shot 6-of-12 from the field and added three rebounds, three assists, two 3s and one steal to the box score tonight. Aside from him though, the Thunder's bench was deafeningly quiet. He cannot carry the load of the second unit's scoring output by his lonesome, especially when they're faced up against a team with multiple weapons like the Blazers. For now, the Thunder can only hope he keeps this up and that the other reserves will follow suit.
April 22, 2019, 12:32 amJerami Grant - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Jerami Grant made just 4-of-10 shots from the field on Sunday to finish with 11 points, nine rebounds, two assists, three triples and two steals in 34 minutes.
Grant's impact on the defensive end has been invaluable to the Thunder in this series and it was nice to see him active on the glass tonight, especially with Steven Adams being relatively quiet on that front with seven boards while adding six points, one assist, one steal and one block. Unfortunately for the Thunder, Portland's forwards, Maurice Harkless and Al-Farouq Aminu outplayed and out-hustled them on both ends of the floor.
April 22, 2019, 12:27 amPaul George - F - Oklahoma City Thunder
Despite being slowed down by turnovers and foul trouble, Paul George still managed to light up the box score in Sunday's loss to the Blazers with 32 points on 8-of-21 shooting, 10 rebounds, six assists, four 3s, one steal and one block.
George has been banged up as early as March and he's been such a trooper, powering through a bothersome shoulder to lead the Thunder in this first-round playoff series. Unfortunately, Damian Lillard and company have been far too much for OKC to handle and George's big nights have come and gone with a lack of ample support to properly contest for the win.
April 22, 2019, 12:23 amMaurice Harkless - F - Trail Blazers
Maurice Harkless had a swell two-way performance in the Blazers' 111-98 Game 4 win over the Thunder on Sunday, posting 15 points on 5-of-13 shooting, adding 10 rebounds, one triple, two steals and three blocks in 34 minutes.
Harkless was mostly a non-factor in fantasy during the regular season due to injuries. He's clearly feeling much better now and is delivering for the Blazers at the right time. If he can keep up posting performances like this, the Blazers could emerge as a dark horse to upset favorites in the west.
April 22, 2019, 12:18 amAl-Farouq Aminu - F - Trail Blazers
Al-Farouq Aminu was feeling it on Sunday, hitting 4-of-9 shots from downtown to help secure a Game 4 win over the Thunder via his 19 points (7-of-16 shooting), nine rebounds, one steal and one block.
The Blazers found an extra kick from Aminu tonight thanks to his hot hand. He's capable of explosions like this from time to time but they're not very consistent, making him a tough player to bank on in playoff DFS. Enes Kanter was relatively quiet as he put up eight points, 10 rebounds, three assists, two steals and one block.
April 22, 2019, 12:15 amCJ McCollum - G - Trail Blazers
CJ McCollum kept his foot on the gas pedal on Sunday, raining down five 3s on the Thunder en route to his team-high 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting, while adding four rebounds, three assists, one steal and two blocks.
McCollum is heating up at just the right time for the Blazers and he picked up some of the slack while Damian Lillard was struggling early in the first half. When he and multiple Blazers are able to put up full lines like this, Portland becomes a devastating opponent, even if the opposing team has name-brand superstars in the form of Russell Westbrook and Paul George.
April 22, 2019, 12:09 amDamian Lillard - G - Trail Blazers
Damian Lillard overcame a rough start in Sunday's game vs. the Thunder, found his game in the second half and was able to wind up finishing with 24 points on 7-of-19 shooting from the field and 6-of-6 shooting from the line.
Lillard has proven to be a true superstar in this series, managing to shake off a slow start to be able to deliver when his team needed the jolt on offense. He added four 3s, three rebounds, eight dimes and one steal to round out his line for the night. Despite Oklahoma City's best efforts, Lillard would not be denied. His ability to turn on a switch and take over a game makes him one of the Western Conference's most dangerous players.
April 21, 2019, 10:15 pmTerrence Ross - G/F - Orlando Magic
Terrence Ross could not get it going offensively in Sunday's 85-107 Game 4 loss to the Raptors on Sunday, recording just five points on 1-of-5 shooting (1-of-4 from deep) with two rebounds, three assists and one steal in 31 minutes.
This was a big blow for both the Magic and Ross' owners in DFS. He was coming off a solid 24-point gem on Friday, so this dud came as a bit of a surprise. In the end, costly turnovers and ill-timed fouls helped keep Ross from exploding like he's done in the past. Evan Fournier helped pick up the slack with 19 points (8-of-16 shooting), four rebounds, two 3s, two dimes and one steal in 35 minutes, but it still was not enough to go toe-to-toe with Kawhi Leonard and company in this crucial Game 4.
April 21, 2019, 10:10 pmAaron Gordon - F - Orlando Magic
Aaron Gordon shot 10-of-17 from the field to finish with 25 points, seven rebounds, five dimes, two 3s and one steal in Sunday's Game 4 loss to the Raptors.
Gordon was limited in the first half but turned up the heat in the third quarter where he scored 16 of his team-high 25 points. Unfortunately, his spirited play was not enough to mount a serious enough rally to challenge the Raptor's control over the game. The 23-year-old Gordon has displayed a fresh level of maturity in this series and finally looks prepared to make a significant leap forward in 2019-20.