Kings’ De’Aaron Fox proves why he should walk away with the NBA’s new Clutch Player of the Year award

CHICAGO — Sacramento Kings guard Malik Monk wasn’t surprised. Kings coach Mike Brown knew going in, too. When All-Star guard De’Aaron Fox towered over Ayo Dosunmu for a potential game-winning 3-pointer Wednesday night, Chicago Bulls fans inside the United Center could be heard saying an exasperated “No!”, likely because they saw it this movie before.

With four seconds left and the game tied at 114, Fox hit a three-pointer to lift Sacramento to its 41st win of the season and give the Kings a record of .500 or better for the first time since 2006.

The win required a comeback effort after trailing by 16 points in the first half, but Fox’s late-game heroics — which also included a mid-range jumper that looked like it would have iced the game for the Kings — were the highlight of the evening. When the Bulls closed out the scoring in the final seconds with some clutch moments of their own, Sacramento had to call on the clutch King once again, and he did.

Monk, who got a great view of Fox’s 3-pointer as he stood in the corner on the floor patiently waiting to see what his former University of Kentucky teammate would do, wasn’t the least bit surprised by Fox’s clutch last-minute layup.

“I’ll keep saying it man, I’m not surprised,” Monk said after the game. “I’ve been with him a long time, I know what he’s going to do. I’ve got the utmost confidence in him. Just Fox being Fox.”

“Just Fox being Fox,” a common refrain among Kings players and coaches who have had a front-row seat to Fox’s clutch performances all season. Fox currently leads the NBA in clutch total points this season, which counts points scored in the final five minutes of a game when the margin is within five points. But the fact that Fox leads that category isn’t the surprising part, it’s how far he is from every other person behind him in that stat. Fox has scored 180 points in clutch time this season, the next closest competitors are DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler with 138 each. According to our CBS Sports Senior Researcher Doug Clawson, that 42-point margin is the most difference between the two leading scorers in the clutch in 15 years, when LeBron James outscored Kobe Bryant by 104 points in the 2007 season- 08.

2022-23 Player Clutch Stats

De Aaron Fox




DeMar DeRozan




Jimmy Butler




Jaylen Brunson




Luka Doncic




Fox’s clutchness, which has become common among Kings players and coaches at this point in the season, was not something Brown expected when he became Sacramento’s coach last summer.

“That was one of the things that when I took the job, I didn’t know how it was going to be consistently in the clutch,” Brown said.

But now, after seeing it unfold, Brown has openly campaigned for Fox to make an All-NBA team and called him the most clutch player in the league.

We’ll have to see how the All-NBA teams fare, though Fox should definitely be in the mix for that one. However, Fox’s dominance in the clutch makes him win the inaugural Jerry West Clutch Player of the Year Award. No one has been as consistent at the end of games as he has been, and what’s even more impressive is the variety in which he gets those points.

Fox is widely considered the fastest guard in the league and will use that breakneck speed to outrun almost any defender in front of him. When that happens, he has excellent control at the rim where he finishes at a 78% clip, not just a career high, but the highest mark this season by a guard. His mid-range game has steadily improved over the course of his career, to the point where he’s converting 50% of those shots, which ranks in the 91st percentile. His 3-point performance is the only sticking point in his offensive game, but he’s shooting 37% from beyond the arc so far in March. You mix all that together and it’s no wonder he was so dangerous with the game on the line.

It’s also very ironic that two of Fox’s game-winning shots this season have come from 3-point range, an area where he struggles, including against the Bulls. The other was this occasional 35-pointer in November against the Orlando Magic:

Fox has the offensive weapons to dismantle almost any defense. But then again, there are plenty of players in the league who have versatile offensive games that weren’t as lethal as Fox with the game on the line. So what sets it a notch above the rest? If you ask Brown, he’d appreciate not only the basketball acumen that Fox possesses, but also the aspects that can’t be quantified with a single statistic.

“His presence, his composure, his demeanor, you name it, was just fantastic down the stretch, especially in a possession game,” Brown said of his All-Star guard. “And so for him to get in those three, no disrespect to anybody, but when he shot it, I felt like he was going in. And that’s not about me, because we didn’t do anything but tell everybody to It’s just a confidence that he exudes during this time in the game, and they show him game after game after game that he can go do it .”

Fox credits his teammates and coaches for instilling confidence in him in those moments, and as for the trend of hitting all the game-winners on the road this season, there’s certainly some significance behind it.

“If you ask somebody who asked me if I’d rather hit a game-winner at home or one on the road, I’d rather hit it on the road,” Fox said. “I’d rather silence the crowd than be hyped, but that’s how I am as a person. Quiet, not loud. That’s how I like to do it on the road.”

Whether at home or on the road, Fox has been the reason Sacramento has the sixth-best clutch winning percentage. While other individual awards may come down to the final game of the regular season to decide, the league should already be carving Fox’s name into that Clutch Player of the Year award right now. And if he can carry that dominance into the playoffs, opposing teams better hope Fox doesn’t have the ball in his hands with the game on the line.

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