The Kings inked franchise point guard De’Aaron Fox to the first major extension of free agency on Friday night, agreeing to a five-year, $163 million max extension, as first reported by The Athletic’s Shams Charania.
Fox, who turns 23 in December, was the No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft and led Sacramento in scoring, assists, and offensive usage last season. The deal can reportedly be worth the super-max number of $195.6 million if Fox meets specific criteria, tied to the salary cap as well as his ability to make one of the three All-NBA teams.
Let’s grade the deal.
As is the case for most smaller-market teams, the Kings’ best chance at sustainable long-term success depends on their ability to land star talent via the draft. Sacramento certainly hit on Fox, and although his jump shot has yet to improve in significant fashion, his blazing speed and playmaking skills have made him plenty effective.
The Kings were probably always going to have to give Fox the maximum as early as possible, and they’re paying a premium price that builds in the hope that he hits his ceiling as an All-Star level guard. Fox’s peers from the 2017 draft—Donovan Mitchell and Jayson Tatum—will likely receive similar deals, but both players have already made the All-Star game. But not all max contracts are created equal.
Fox’s game isn’t quite at that level yet, and if he doesn’t start to shoot better from distance (he made just 29% of his threes last season, regressing from 37%), he may not quite be a justifiable max-money talent by the time this deal is up. The shooting is certainly a major swing factor, and there’s no reason to assume he suddenly takes a leap in that department. But that doesn’t mean the Kings should balk at the chance to find out how good their best player, still a few years away from his prime, can be in the end.
Fox is one of the most athletic point guards in the league, plays solid defense, distributes the ball effectively and excels pushing in transition. Sacramento was in the playoff race with him at the helm before the pandemic interrupted last season, and hopes to stay in that conversation as their other young players develop around him.
All things considered, Fox’s ceiling remains significant, and the health of the organization hinges on him reaching it, but his value to the franchise is also more than simply his on-court production, and there was no way they could afford to let him even ponder any other future (for the time being). While he’s not totally worth this type of money at the moment, it’s hard to argue with Sacramento ponying up to keep Fox happy, understanding the circumstances, and imagining what he might become.