When the Sacramento Kings drafted De’Aaron Fox with the No. 5 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, the franchise hoped the lightning-quick point guard could snap the franchise’s playoff drought. With Fox in his fifth NBA season and Sacramento no closer to hosting a playoff game, changes could be looming.
Things looked promising, even after a disappointing 2020-’21 season for the Kings. Fox set career-highs in points (25.2 ppg), three-pointers made (103) and averaged 20-plus points and seven-plus assists for the first time in his young career. Arguably the fastest player in the NBA was poised to take another step forward in the first year of his massive contract, even with Luke Walton returning as head coach.
But things have gone off the rails, an all too familiar trend for one of the most hapless franchises in professional sports. Heading towards another season with a sub-.500 record and a 16th consecutive year without a playoff appearance, it’s time for the Kings to hit the reset button by exploring radical changes.
Let’s examine three potential landing spots for a De’Aaron Fox trade.
De’Aaron Fox traded to Houston Rockets
Realistically, only a few teams have the need and potential assets to pursue a De’Aaron Fox trade. One of them just happens to hold some significance to Fox. While the 23-year-old was born in New Orleans, Houston is his hometown and it could be an ideal landing spot for the young guard.
- De’Aaron Fox stats (2021): 20.3 ppg 5.5 apg, 1.2 spg, 42.5% from field, 27.3$ 3-pt, 0.7 Win Shares
Houston is trying to make it work at point guard with Kevin Porter Jr., but the results thus far raise serious doubts about it working. Porter Jr. is turning it over four times per game, playing a crucial role in his -1.0 Offensive Win Shares. Houston needs a guard who it can pair with Jalen Green’s shooting.
There’s one potential scenario that could help salaries align. If the Los Angeles Clippers are interested in acquiring John Wall, many have suggested Serge Ibaka, Luke Kennard and Eric Bledsoe going to Houston. But Ibaka ($9.7 million expiring contract and Bledsoe could head to Sacramento, with the salaries matching up for all parties, The Kings receive a top-five protected 2023 first and the Nets’ 2026 first-round pick from the Nets.
Houston brings Fox home, putting him alongside a developing shooter who could turn into an outstanding player and it moves on from Wall’s contract. Meanwhile, Sacramento picks up two first-round picks and long-term financial relief.
Boston Celtics take swing on talented point guard
The Boston Celtics are always going to explore the trade market, seeing if they can buy low on a player who might be fixed in a better environment. Fox is struggling in Sacramento, but joining a stable Celtics franchise with two exciting, young talents (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown) could turn things around for him quickly.
- Boston Celtics trade: Marcus Smart. Aaron Nesmith, 2022 first-round pick, 2024 first-round pick
- Sacramento Kings trade: De’Aaron Fox
Fox would greatly benefit from being in a situation where he doesn’t have to be the star. Opponents will still be focused on Tatum, creating lanes for Fox to drive to the hoop. It would likely help him return to that unstoppable burst he displayed previously in Sacramento, which made him so dangerous in transition and when driving to the rim.
Sacramento is weak along the wing, so Nesmith would be a nice buy-low talent who would get plenty of run with the rebuilding Kings. Smart could start alongside Tyrese Haliburton, with Davion Mitchell coming off the bench. Adding a pair of first-round picks would also give the Kings more swings in future draft classes, this franchise’s only avenue to acquire talent.
New Orleans Pelicans roll the dice on potential All-Star
The New Orleans Pelicans made plenty of mistakes at point guard this offseason, problems that need to be corrected for things to be turned around. New Orleans hoped Kira Lewis Jr. could become the next De’Aaron Fox, but that experiment has failed. Landing the real thing might be the first step towards convincing Zion Williamson, when he returns, that things can work out here.
- De’Aaron Fox contract: $28.1 million (2021-’22) $30.35 million (2022-’23), $32.6 million (2023-’23), $34.85 million (2024-’25), $37.09 million (2025-’26)
In terms of a trade package, there are a variety of directions talks can go. Tomas Satoransky ($10 million expiring contract) and rookie forward Trey Murphy III would likely need to be in the deal, along with a future first-round pick. Sacramento might want a future Lakers’ first-round selection, given the direction their rival is headed. The goal for the Kings, acquire as much cheap, young talent and draft picks as possible.
As for the Pelicans, this is the kind of talent David Griffin needs to target. He stockpiled years worth of draft picks for a reason, to land a potential All-Star talent. Fox showed that ability a year and considering he only turns 24 on Dec. 20, there is plenty of time for his game to blossom. Putting Fox, Zion and Brandon Ingram together might give the Pelicans a shot at competing for the playoffs every year.