Way back in August, Ridiculous Upside took a look at two highly-touted Kentucky Wildcat prospects in Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo. In both of those pieces, we basically stated that the site would break down Kentucky’s other top prospects whether they’d be Wenyen Gabriel, De’Aaron Fox or Sacha Killeya-Jones.
Due to the combination of procrastination and just focusing on other topics, those pieces unfortunately were never released. That is until this week, where we’ll focus on every other incoming Kentucky freshman that aren’t Malik Monk and Bam Adebayo. To start that journey through the Wildcats’ talented trio, we’re going to take a look at De’Aaron Fox.
To say it was a mistake to not take a look at De’Aaron Fox until late October would be a huge understatement. That’s due to Fox being a slight divergent from your normal elite prospect in that his game is actually defined by his work on the defensive end. Of course, Fox is no slouch as a scorer or facilitator, but much of his upside comes from his dominance on the defensive end.
That defensive prowess is evident from the moment that you first see Fox work against an opposing guard. Fox looks like Celtics-era Rajon Rondo or John Wall with the way that he’s able to combine great defensive fundamentals with incredible energy.
From a fundamental perspective, Fox looks more like a seasoned vet than your average 18-year-old prospect. Starting out in a fantastic defensive stance, The 6’4 guard does a great job of repeatedly preventing the opposing guard from getting any breathing room. Much of that is due to Fox having incredibly quick feet, which allows him to stick right on his man even if he’s driving towards the paint. Those quick feet also allow him to move past off-ball screens, a talent that some veteran NBA guards don’t even have.
Those two defensive traits are perfectly encapsulated in the play below. First off, Fox can work over the off-ball screen that was set when he clearly had his eyes transfixed on the opposing guard. After unsuccessfully trying to poke the ball away from the player, Fox can remain right on his man as the opponent starts to drive towards the basket. The play finishes with Fox’s defensive pressure forcing the opposing guard to lose control of the ball.
Outside of his ability to apply constant pressure on the opposition, Fox does a great job at trying to force turnovers. much that work as a ball hawk is due to Fox’s terrific anticipation, which allows to wait until the precise moment to try force the loose ball.
As previously mentioned, Fox’s potential rests on his fantastic defensive ability, but that doesn’t mean he’s a slouch on the offensive end. On that end of the court, Fox shines brightest through his work as a facilitator. Although he does great work in half-court sets, Fox’s facilitating is most evident when he’s working in transition. Fox kind of looks like a magician in the way that he can throw these incredibly precise passes while in the process of speeding down the court. A prime example of that is seen in the play below where he throws a beautiful cross-court bounce pass to a cutting teammate.
That knack as a facilitator is still there when Fox is working in half-court sets. In those sets, Fox does a great job of facilitating whether he’s on the perimeter or driving towards the paint. Utilizing his solid 6’4 frame, Fox easily see over the court to make the necessary read. As a drive-and-dish facilitator, Fox is still able to use that bigger frame to either work it to an on-ball cutter or a teammate positioned on the perimeter.
Just like with his work as a facilitator, Fox’s best knack as a scorer is through transition play. Perhaps it’s due to the freedom that comes with working in transition but Fox just seems extremely comfortable with just speeding down the court. In those drives, Fox shows great speed while also being able to change directions to move past an opposing player. After that drive, Fox can either finish with a soft layup or electrify with a tremendous slam.
Although Fox does his best work as a transition or half-court cutter, he does show some promise as a shooter. At this point, much of that upside is due to his work as a pull-up shooter, as he does a nice job of using his handles to create spacing needed to hit a mid-range or perimeter shooter. He’s probably best as a mid-range shooter as it appears that he doesn’t have the best outside touch. However, Fox should still be a stable mid-range shooter at Kentucky if he can pull off moves like this against SEC competition.
Despite some of the glaring flaws in Fox’s all-around game, the 6’4 Kentucky freshman should still stand out as one of the best young guards in college basketball. Because while he may be raw on the offensive end, Fox more than makes up for it by being an outstanding defensive stopper that could potential defend against multiple positions. That defensive prowess combined with his knack as a facilitator should allow De’Aaron Fox to be a standout guard for years to come.