NBA Draft 2017 History Lessons: De’Aaron Fox

NBA Draft History Lessons is a video series where I look back at historical performances from similar players to shed light on future expectation of a current prospect.  In the first edition I am talking De’Aaron Fox and how other poor shooting guards taken at the top of the NBA draft have fared.  


NBA Draft Rising Stock

De’Aaron fox has vaulted up draft boards thanks in large part to a strong performance in the NCAA Tournament capitalized by 39 Points against UCLA in the Sweet 16.  While his speed and athleticism have impressed NBA organizations across the league, his poor jump shot is keeping the hype train at bay.  If Fox is taken within the first 10 picks of this year’s NBA draft he will be the 5th PG to do so while shooting under 30% from 3 his final year of college.  While every player’s journey is unique, we can help shape expectations by looking at the careers of each of these players.

NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De'Aaron Fox

NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De’Aaron Fox

De’Aaron Fox NBA Draft Profile

Fox is a 6’4 171 lbs PG with a 6’6 wingspan.  After playing his high school ball at Cypress Lakes in Katy, Texas, Fox was rated the 6th best prospect in ESPN’s Top 100 recruiting class.  De’Aaron Fox decided to join Coach Cal at Kentucky and had a strong season averaging 16.7 points 4.6 ast(s) 1.5 stl(s) while maintaining a  respectable 1.9 ast/to ratio as the go to ball handler for one of the nation’s best squads.


NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De'Aaron Fox


Fox projects to have a good NBA career due to his elite size and athleticism as well as his ability to attack the rim and finish with both hands.  He has also shown the ability to create for others and the potential to be a strong defender at the next level.  The biggest concerns for Fox heading into the NBA draft are his wiry frame and of course his poor jump shot.  Now let’s take a look at how other top 10 PGs with a poor shooting stroke have fared early in their career.

Historical NBA Draft Comparable Players

NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De'Aaron Fox


The exclusive club of poor shooting top guards taken within the first 10 picks of the NBA draft includes Larry Hughes taken in 1998 with the 8th pick by the 76ers, Andre Miller drafted in 1999 by the Cavs with the 8th pick, and TJ Ford drafted in 2003 by the Milwaukee Bucks.  The most recent additions to this fraternity are Marcus Smart drafted in 2014 by the Boston Celtics with the 6th pick, and Elfrid Payton also drafted in 2014 by the 76ers with the 10th pick.  With the exception of TJ Ford each of these PGs make up for their lack of shooting with size and athleticism.  It makes sense that NBA teams would avoid small PGs who cannot shoot in the top 10.


NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De'Aaron Fox


The graph above details the Box Score Plus Minus for each of these players in the first 5 years of their career.  BPM is an advanced statistic that tries to capture a player’s value to a team based on their box score performance.  It is also a per 100 possession stat which negates any differences in playing time.  You will notice 3 dotted lines added to the visual which represent, from top to bottom, All-Star level BPM, Starter Level BPM, and League Average BPM.  I used data dating back to 1998 for these thresholds and used a start rate of 75% to calculate the Starter level.

Andre Miller was by far the best player in his first 5 years performing at or above starter level for 4 of the 5 years and performing at a near all-star level in year 3.  TJ ford missed his 2nd year due to injury but improved each year after and finished his 5th season with a BPM just below starter level.  Neither Smart nor Payton have set the NBA on fire through 3 years but Payton improved this season and years 4 and 5 will tell us a lot about their roles in the NBA going forward.  Miller, Payton, and Ford all took leaps in their 3rd year which tells me Fox may need a couple years to acclimate himself to the NBA.

While only one of the players spent a season below league average, I am surprised that only Andre Miller performed above starter level.  With that being said, in most cases players improve even more as their career progresses, and in terms of Fox there is a chance he is the best pro prospect of the bunch.  Fox certainly will be the most gifted in terms of speed and athleticism which is why he is looking at being a top pick in this year’s NBA draft.

NBA Draft History Lessons - De'Aaron Fox 2017

A quick look at this group’s 3p% over the first 5 years will show it is not a given that shooting will improve early on.  Only TJ Ford was able to sustain an improved percentage from 3 early in his career.  Now that we have an idea of historical player performance let’s take a look at how Fox stack’s up to each of these player’s.

NCAA Player Performance

NBA Draft 2017 History Lesson: De'Aaron Fox

Using Synergy Sport’s database of advanced college statistics we can take a look at how Fox compares as a player to the other guys in this group.  The data only goes back to 2005 so we are only able to include Payton and Smart in this comparison.  On the offensive side of the ball Fox had the highest Point Per Possession at 0.951 ranking in the 70th percentile in all of college basketball.  Fox was on par with his counterparts in Transition and as a Pick and Roll Ball Handler.  You can see Payton really struggled in the latter and with this skill so important at the NBA level it may shed some light into why he has been a disappointment so far.  Where Fox really shines is in Isolation where he scored almost a point per possession and ranked in the 80th percentile.

On the defensive side of the ball Fox has a lot of potential but will need to improve his defense against the P&R.  Smart really excelled on this end of the court and this is where most of his value lies at the NBA level.  I think it is safe to say that Fox is the most well rounded prospect of this group, a feat that is even more impressive seeing that Smart and Payton spent multiple years in school.

De’Aaron Fox NBA Draft Prospect Conclusion

After looking back at NBA draft history I feel confident saying the Fox will stick in the league for years to come.  I will even go as far as saying Fox has a good shot at having the best career of the players we have looked at.   While he will need to develop a jump shot and come close to reaching his full defensive potential to be elite in the NBA, he can still be a solid starter in the league with his elite speed and ability to attack the rim alone.

While he was not included in this video, the upside of Fox is to be a John Wall type player.  It seems like a lazy comparison being that they both played PG and went to the University of Kentucky, but their games are very similar and both possess elite speed and size.  John Wall also struggled shooting the ball from deep early in his career but has hit a mark of 33% or better each of the last 2 seasons to go along with BPMs of 3.2 and 4.1.  I am not in the business of evaluating work ethic or IQ for NBA prospects but I have not seen anything that tells me Fox is not willing to put in the work.

Well there you have it.  A look back at history to shed light on the future of De’Aaron Fox.  It will be interesting to see where Fox lands inside of the Lottery this summer.  Whoever lands Fox will be getting an elite athlete with the potential to be a top PG in the NBA.



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