What’s it like to perform for someone who has their eyes on a rival? That’s the question De’Aaron Fox had to answer Saturday afternoon at the Sixers’ practice facility. Philadelphia’s focus turned toward the No. 1 pick and Markelle Fultz on Friday afternoon, leaving a cloud of uncertainty over the rest of their workout plans.
For Fox, the only thing he appeared concerned with was his own game. During the portion of the workout the media was privy to, we got a glimpse of all the things that make Fox a divisive prospect for the Sixers; he was lightning quick in the open floor, competed hard in defensive drills, but struggled to make jumpers at a consistent clip.
De'Aaron Fox running through some drills with the Sixers staff pic.twitter.com/phX74kc6S8— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 17, 2017
That was the problem for him in college as well, but he told reporters that struggling with the shot is a new phenomenon for him.
“I really shot well in high school and then struggled this past year at Kentucky,” he said. “But I don’t know, I just wasn’t making shots, and then started coming on at the end of the season. I kind of kept the same routine, kept getting in the gym, kept getting repetition, end of the season it was just clicking.”
Fox’s word probably won’t be enough to shrug off the concerns altogether. Even if the trade with Boston falls through and the Sixers pick at No. 3, Fox is a dicey proposition for a team that desperately needs shooters at the guard spots. He shot 24.6 percent from three and 32.7 percent on all jump shots at Kentucky, with defenses often choosing to sag off him and concede open looks to Fox on the perimeter.
The jump shot for Fox has been a mixed bag pic.twitter.com/YouHVvrd1j— Kyle Neubeck (@KyleNeubeck) June 17, 2017
His fans cling to the idea that his free-throw percentage (73) is an indicator that shooting will come eventually. Fox sounds like he agrees with that premise, and says he’s able to put the poor shooting at UK in perspective, rather than dwell on it as a fatal flaw.
“I didn’t worry too much about it,” he said, “because I was getting to the rim whenever I wanted, I was making free throws, so that aspect of my game, as it came, I went along with it. If you’re practicing it you’re going to get better at it. In college I kind of saw the rotation wasn’t there, so now that’s one thing I’m really focusing on. It’s coming along well.”
The shooting is a multi-faceted concern on the Sixers, because it would stack on top of Ben Simmons’ documented shooting woes, and cast doubt on whether he could coexist with another primary playmaker. A Sixers team with Fox and Simmons could see a lot of packed paints if neither became a catch-and-shoot threat.
Any concerns he wouldn’t be comfortable off-ball, however, appear to unfounded. As he was happy to remind reporters, he even has some experience playing alongside last year’s No. 1 pick.
“I can work without the ball,” he said. “I did it in high school, I didn’t do it much at Kentucky I was pretty ball-dominant, but I can do it. One thing people don’t know, me and Ben [Simmons]were actually on teams at LeBron camp, my sophomore year his junior year, so I’ve played with him before.”
Fox knows as well as anyone that camp scrimmage quality won’t cut it in the NBA, and he comes off as a kid who is prepared to put in the work to make any partnership work. He stressed that his fire would help put him over the top of his peers, and that if nothing else, he could control how hard he competes.
“My competitiveness, sometimes that just puts someone over,” he said. “You have some people that come in the gym and they chill, they don’t work hard, I come in the gym and I’m attacking no matter who I’m going at.”
Competitiveness can’t replace a jump shot, but Fox—who told us he got up extra jumpers before the team workout even started this morning—doesn’t sound like a kid who will cut corners in the effort to rediscover his outside touch.
Other Workout Notes
- SMU’s Sterling Brown was the headliner of the A.M. workout, and he thinks he has more to prove if he gets bigger opportunities. “That’s all it is, getting the opportunity. My freshman and sophomore year I was in and out [of the starting lineup], my junior and senior year I was consistent throughout the whole year. I just got the opportunity and capitalized on it.”
- Brown, whose older brother Shannon played in the league for parts of eight seasons, shared the advice his brother gave him about playing in the NBA. “Go out there and have fun, and when you step in between the lines, kill everybody.”