It's been a few years since Kentucky produced its last big-name NBA point guard. Everything about De'Aaron Fox's flair and look suggests he's the next one up.
"Does a cow produce milk?" one scout replied when asked if he bought into Fox's NBA potential.
It was only a matter of time before the John Wall comparisons would start popping up for the exciting playmaker with next-level size, athleticism and speed.
"They're reasonable," the scout said, citing "physical tools and skills" as the core similarities.
"I don’t feel like it’s ever bad to be compared to someone like that," Fox told the Courier-Journal's Fletcher Page. "It just gives you really high expectations."
Stylistically, there is an obvious resemblance. The question is whether Fox can follow in the former No. 1 pick's steps and develop into an All-Star-caliber floor general.
|Fox vs. Wall|
|Height||Weight||Length||Reach||No-step vertical||Max vertical|
|Fox||6'3 ¼"||185 lbs||6'4 ½"||8'3"||34"||38 ½"|
|Wall||6'4"||196 lbs||6'9 ¼"||8'5 ½"||30"||39"|
|2010 NBA Draft Combine/Kentucky's 2016 combine|
Physically, Wall is significantly longer. A second scout noted Wall's superior strength/explosiveness and commented on Fox being "more about extending around smaller point guards than exploding over them."
Still, Fox packs a potent punch of size, quickness and bounce.
He reminds one of Wall in transition more than any other area. Alarms should sound whenever he grabs a defensive rebound—Fox has made a habit of taking them coast to coast and picking up buckets before defenses can set.
Fast and shifty, he flies with the ball, showing the ability to turn on the jets and weave between traffic while maintaining the body control to finish the break. He's also become proficient with a Eurostep that's now a regular weapon.
There's also vision on the move and a willingness to set the table for teammates, an aspect of his game that holds more value in the half court. If Fox were to step on an NBA floor tomorrow, he'd have better success distributing than scoring.
Out of pick-and-rolls, he creates passing lanes to the roll man by confusing and drawing both defenders with change of speed and inside-out dribbles. He uses his elusiveness to create quality looks for dunkers, divers and shooters, whether it's off ball screens or drive-and-kicks.
His ability to shake and keep the defense on its heels leads to assists.
Among the fast breaks, secondary breaks and Fox's first step, he constantly puts pressure on the defense and rim. When attacking, he covers ground and airspace with long strides, precise cuts and springs, which results in frequent finger rolls and layups.
Fox has also demonstrated the coordination to adjust midair and convert at tough angles.
As a freshman, bank on the majority of his scoring coming from inside 15 feet, though Fox is a threat to pull up from around the arc if he's run off the three-point line or given space off a ball screen. He's not consistent from deep but is capable when left free.
One of Fox's biggest selling points is the fact he can impact a game with defense, a rare strength among guards. Extreme foot speed and aggressive, active hands translate to ball pressure and forced turnovers.
His reactions are equally as effective: He contains dribble penetration with both lateral quickness and instincts. Fox does a great job of anticipating his man's move, when the pick is coming and how to avoid it.
He makes it difficult for opposing ball-handlers to comfortably operate, turn the corner or get into their sets. And he's made the pickpocket steal at half court a signature play.
It's difficult to imagine a point guard having a higher defensive ceiling. And it should buy him some time and wiggle room with scouts when it comes to his offensive development.
The dunks and acrobatic layups will be there, but don't be surprised if Fox struggles to consistently finish through rim protection.
He doesn't climb the ladder as well as when given an open runway to lift off. He's had trouble separating from shot-blockers and defenders who are still attached. Fox also doesn't generate much power from his skinny legs, while his thin frame can crumble after contact.
It's led to some questionable shot selection: He's shown a tendency to either drive hard into traffic instead of tossing up a floater, or he'll prematurely stop short for a low-percentage runner to avoid the trees.
Though capable of firing off the dribble, he hasn't been a reliable shooter, either. He also doesn't create his own shot well with jab steps or step-backs on the perimeter, making him somewhat predictable to defend. Opponents are bound to sag, go under screens and take away Fox's drive until he starts beating them from outside.
He's also shown limited confidence and comfort playing off the ball; Fox doesn't appear interested in wasting field-goal attempts on spot-up jumpers unless they're in rhythm. Even then, he's had mixed results.
The spotlight tends to gravitate toward Kentucky point guards, but Fox won't need it to draw attention. He'll generate his own buzz with playmaking, athleticism and highlights that continue to remind fans of Wall.
Fox's challenges include remaining efficient without a dependable jumper or much muscle around the basket. And though a fine facilitator, he can stand to improve his decision-making as lead guard of an offense.
The eye test, however, indicates Fox's transition game, setup ability and defense are poised to translate from high school to college to the pros. He will blow up if he can make the strides Wall has as a perimeter scorer and orchestrator.