De’Aaron Fox continues to improve his game as he enters his prime, and Domantas Sabonis is right there with him
De’Aaron Fox turns 26 in a month, which means he’s right around that age where basketball players begin to enter their prime.
After making a big improvement last season, where he won the inaugural Clutch Player of the Year award while averaging 25 points, 4.2 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.1 steals in the regular season and 27.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 7.7 assists and 2.1 steals in the playoffs, Fox has started to reach an even higher level this season.
Fox of course had to watch his Sacramento Kings lose in seven games to the Golden State Warriors, but it took a historic 50-point game from Stephen Curry to put the Warriors over the top. It’s worth remembering, too, that Fox broke his finger late into that series but still toughed it out to try to help the team win.
‘Swipa’, scarily enough for the rest of the Western Conference, is playing even better in the 2023-24 season. Although he’s missed a few games due to an ankle sprain, he has been an MVP-level force for the Kings when he’s taken to the floor. The stats simply don’t lie. He’s averaging 31.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 6.1 assists and 1.9 steals with just 1.9 turnovers per game. He’s also got a plus/minus rating of +9.6.
While everyone already knows about just how good Fox is when driving to the rack or shooting the mid-range jumper, there are now signs that he may have also added a reliable three-point shot to his repertoire.
It’s too early to assume that Fox is now a knockout three-point shooter, but it’s an encouraging sign that through seven games he’s shooting 41.7% from three on 8.6 attempts per game. The threat of a reliable long-ball would make Fox unguardable, and there were plenty of signs of that in their most recent game against the Dallas Mavericks. Fox shot 6 of 10 from beyond the arc in that game and made three of them in a row in the third quarter which threw the Mavericks out of whack and set the table for the eventual 129-113 victory.
Fox sat out most of the fourth quarter and still finished the game with 30 points, four rebounds, seven assists and three steals. What’s even scarier, though, is that his co-star Domantas Sabonis had an even better game than him. Sabonis had 32 points, 13 rebounds and six assists while making 13 of 15 shots. He kept the pressure on the Mavericks after Fox sat for good.
Sabonis is averaging 20.8 points, 12.9 rebounds and 7.2 assists per game this season and he looks like he’s on a mission to erase the bad memory of being outplayed by Kevon Looney in the playoffs. He’s been more aggressive with attacking the rim, and his midrange jumper is looking a bit more reliable.
Sure, it’s still early in the season, but the Kings are looking like they’ll be contending for one of the top six seeds in a stacked Western Conference. They’ll be hoping for better injury luck, though, as they’ve recently lost backup center Alex Len for 6-8 weeks due to an ankle sprain, while Keon Ellis, who has recently taken over Davion Mitchell’s spot in the rotation, tweaked his ankle against the Mavericks.
Kevin Durant is still a basketball savant
There were obviously a lot of expectations of the Phoenix Suns after they acquired Bradley Beal in the offseason to add to their duo of Kevin Durant and Devin Booker. Unfortunately, it hasn’t translated into that many wins yet, especially since the trio have rarely seen the floor together. Beal has only suited up three times while Booker has only played in five games.
That’s left Durant as their only reliable superstar so far this season. The 35-year-old forward has played in 13 games so far and he’s averaged 31.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.2 blocks while shooting 52.8% from the field and 49.2% overall. Durant’s latest heroics came in a double-overtime victory against the Utah Jazz, where he scored eight-straight points for the Suns in the second OT to set up the victory for his team.
Durant played 46 minutes total and finished with 39 points, eight rebounds, 10 assists, two steals and two blocks. It’s insane production from someone his age and he’s the main reason that the Suns are above .500 while missing two of three stars for large chunks of time so far.
We should appreciate KD while he’s still around. We won’t get to see this kind of greatness often.