De’Aaron Fox is leading the Kings’ cultural revolution

“I thought it was time to start over.”

That line from Vlade Divac’s interview with the Sacramento Bee’s Ailene Voisin provides a nice summation of his reasoning behind the DeMarcus Cousins trade.

After years of undergoing the scrutiny that came with Cousins’ presence in the organization, Divac decided to cut ties with the only semblance of a franchise cornerstone that the team has had in years.

They took on a minimal return as well, with only Buddy Hield, the No. 10 pick and a handful of devalued rotational pieces making their way back to Sacramento.

It wasn’t about the return, though. It was about changing the team’s culture. They rid themselves of the Cousins-era haziness, and in turn, gave the locker room a much-needed reboot.

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After that trade went down, the importance of this year’s draft increased tenfold. Their 2017 haul will now lay the foundation for success moving forward, meaning both their talent on the court and their behavior off of it will go a long way in determining the success of Divac’s rebuild. By the time draft night was over on June 22nd, it was evident that Divac held true to his desires for a cultural overhaul.

The Kings walked away from the Barclays Center with De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles and Frank Mason III joining the squad — all of whom have a handful of key attributes in common.

The foremost of those similarities, however, is character. All four of them are not only great kids, but hard workers — something their collegiate teammates and coaches have attested to on a regular basis.

Fox is the player Sacramento is now placing at the helm of that rebuild. Regardless of his flaws on the court, it’s difficult to formulate a better leadership figure to build around moving forward.

The Kings need talent — and Fox certainly brings that — but it’s not his talent alone that got him drafted by Sacramento. In a vacuum, Fox’s draft stock varied greatly depending on who you spoke with.

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Some people, myself included, had him at 10-plus on their boards, while others were comfortable moving him up to second. But as ESPN’s Fran Fraschilla put it, Fox has a “magnetic personality,” which in large part is what helped to endear him to so many NBA executives.

He cares about his teammates, something that was constantly on display during his time at Kentucky. We’ve seen his former backcourt mate and fellow draftee Malik Monk praise Fox on a consistent basis during the pre-draft process, while Fox’s interview skills have also been lauded in many circles, as his basketball I.Q. and well-spoken nature are appealing for teams in search of a supportive voice in the locker room.

People listen to Fox when he speaks, and his combination of genuine excitement and willingness to work is precisely what Sacramento needs in the midst of their most extensive rejuvenation attempt in quite some time.

There are also the benefits he brings with the basketball in his hands. While his 3-point shot is an undeniable concern, there’s enough upside offensively to warrant handing Fox the keys to the offense under the right circumstances.

He’s the quickest player end-to-end in this year’s class, blistering opposing defenses in transition while slicing them with quick direction changes and shifty ball handling in the half court setting.

For a Kings team that wants to get out and run, Fox is the type of point guard they need. He’ll be able to get open shooters plenty of looks in transition, where he can leverage his speed and explosiveness en route to the basket to suck in the defense and exploit the passing lanes that open up as a result.

His potential in the half court, while largely dependent on his jumper, is still present as well. Much akin to John Wall, defenders have to sag off of Fox in isolation for the sole purpose of staying in front of him.

If he can get his mid-range jumper falling with any remote consistency, he has the potential to evolve into one of the more dynamic offensive weapons in this year’s class.

That development may, however, seem far out. His shot release was inconsistent during his yearlong collegiate run, with release points and fluidity varying regularly. He’s also not as polished as some of the names around him. Dennis Smith Jr. is a more dependable scorer, as well as a more visionary passer out of the pick-and-roll. Fultz and Ball have their well-documented upper hands as well.

But Fox has upside that, in certain variations of long term hypotheticals, could exceed that of those drafted in front of him. It’s an extraordinarily long shot. As a player, his flaws are irrefutably detrimental in today’s game.

But his physical tools are special. His speed gives him a gift that nobody else in this class seems to have. And, in a vein somewhat similar to the Big Baller from L.A., that stylistic individuality gives him potential that, however enigmatic it may be, could be downright special in the right environment.

The Kings are going to let Fox take the reigns in Sacramento. The locker room is going to be his to control, while the offense will be his to execute.

He’ll likely have his fair share of early struggles, but Sacramento made a commitment to a player who they believe can bring a paradigm shift to a Kings team that has long been squandered by the negativity stemming from the organization’s foremost star.

Fox is here to return Sacramento to a respected state in the league. He has an abnormally large burden to carry for a rookie, yet has the personality traits needed to elevate this team in a far more positive direction moving forward.

As somebody who heavily criticized Fox’s game prior to the draft, it’s tough to deny that he’s the right fit at five. Maybe it’s not all because of basketball, but he’s the leader this Kings team needs as its headliner.

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Christopher Kline on Twitter
Christopher Kline
Special Contributor to Cowbell Kingdom. You can follow the rest of his work on The Sixer Sense and 16 Wins A Ring.

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