Coming into the 2017 NBA Draft, every casual basketball fan knows the names of the draft’s two top prospects: point guards Lonzo Ball and Markelle Fultz. Lonzo Ball has been wowing NBA scouts since his high school days, putting together dozens of highlight-reel-worthy combinations, step backs, and dimes at Chino Hills and UCLA. His pass-first playing style has drawn comparisons to Jason Kidd. On the other side of the coin, Fultz is a scorer. Forced to carry much of the load at Washington, he was still able to put together a fantastic freshman season. While these two players will almost certainly become productive NBA players, there’s a third point guard shooting up NBA draft boards. His name is De’aaron Fox.
Since suiting up for Kentucky at the beginning of the 2016 season, Fox’s name has been garnering attention from NBA scouts. Unlike his positional counterparts Ball and Fultz, who were their team’s top offensive options in college, Fox wasn’t given the same liberties on the offensive end at Kentucky. He doesn’t have the best three point shot, the best handle, or the best offensive skill set in general. Instead, his talent truly shines through on the defensive end of the floor. Fox’s tenacious defensive playing style made him one of the best perimeter defenders in college and will certainly make him a valuable commodity in today’s totally offensive oriented NBA. Fox has quick hands and an even quicker brain. He’s capable of picking opponents pockets or jumping into passing lanes and nabbing the ball on any possession. De’aaron Fox’s pure athleticism alone is enough to make him a defensive threat, however when you couple that with his basketball IQ and his defensive dedication, you have a complete star.
There’s no point guard like him in this draft. As the NBA shifts from a somewhat balanced league that respects and applauds offensive and defensive capabilities, to a league that simply encourages offensive showmanship, players like Fox are becoming extinct. Young players don’t want to be Gary Payton or Tony Allen – they want to be Steph or Kyrie. There is certainly nothing wrong with that. Flashy step backs and three pointers are doing great things for the local and global popularity of the game. But what happens when a player like De’aaron Fox enters the mix? Fox is a defensive workhorse, who is willing to sacrifice his offensive skill set to be the best possible defender for his team. Smart NBA general managers recognize this. They also know that every single team in the NBA is ill-equipped to handle the offensive potency teams like the Warriors and the Cavaliers have. For now, teams have accepted the offensive dominance of the NBA’s star-studded super teams. Unfortunately for commissioner Adam Silver, this is the reality of the current NBA landscape.
That’s all changing. Opposing general managers are already suffering inside the iron grip that the über offensively skilled teams have trapped them in. Teams need creative solutions. They need a change. Enter De’aaron Fox. Whether he knows it or not, Fox is re-paving the way for defensive point guards, which in turn is re-paving the path to success for other NBA teams. No longer will the Curry’s and Kyrie’s of the league dominate at the point guard position without any true competition. Now, they will be matching up against a different type of opponent: defensively versatile players. With Fox at the forefront, we may well see a paradigm shift in the way basketball is being played. All we have to do is to sit back an watch.