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

CHICAGO — Sacramento Kings defenseman Malik Monk wasn’t surprised. Kings head coach Mike Brown also knew this was happening. When All-Star defenseman De’Aaron Fox climbed over Ayo Dosunmu to score a potentially game-winning three-pointer on Wednesday night, Chicago Bulls fans in the United Center yelled an exasperated “No!”, probably because they had seen the movie before.

With four seconds left and a tied game of 114 apiece, Fox lost a three-pointer to propel Sacramento to its 41st win of the season and secure the Kings’ .500 or better record for the first time since 2006.

The victory required effort to bounce back from a 16-point loss in the first half, but Fox’s late-game heroism, which also included a mid-range shot that looked like it froze the game for the Kings, was the highlight of the evening. When the Bulls tied the score in the final seconds with a few clutch moments of their own, Sacramento needed to call on their clutch king once more, and he did it.

Monk, who had a perfect 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, was not the least bit surprised by Fox’s last moment of clutching.

“I’ll keep saying that, man, I’m not surprised,” Monk joked after the game. “I’ve been with him for a long time, I know what he’s going to do. I trust him the most. It’s just that Fox is Fox.”

“Fox is just Fox,” is a common refrain among Kings players and coaches, who have sat front-row at Fox performances throughout the season. Fox currently leads the NBA in total clutch points this season, which is points scored in the last five minutes of a game when there is a difference of less than five points. But the fact that Fox leads in this category is not surprising, but how far he is from all the other people standing behind him in these statistics. Fox has amassed 180 clutch points this season, with DeMar DeRozan and Jimmy Butler next closest with 138 points each. According to CBS Sports Senior Researcher Doug Clawson, the 42-point difference is the biggest gap between the two top scorers in 15 years, since LeBron James beat Kobe Bryant by 104 points in 2007-08.

Player clutch statistics 2022-23

Player Total clutch points Clutch FG% Clutch team record

De’Aaron Fox




Demar DeRozan




Jimmy Butler




Jalen Brunson




Luka Doncic




Fox’s coolness, which has become common among Kings players and coaches this part of the season, was not what Brown expected when he took over as head coach of Sacramento last summer.

“That was one of the things when I took the job, I didn’t know how he would be in a clutch all the time,” Brown said.

But now, having seen it unfold, Brown openly campaigned for Fox to create an All-NBA team and called him the most tenacious player in the league.

We’ve yet to see how All-NBA teams fare, although Fox certainly has to be involved. However, Fox’s dominance in the clutch makes him the favorite to win. Jerry West Klatch’s first Player of the Year award. No one has been as consistent late in games as he is, and what’s even more impressive is the variety in which he gets those points.

Fox is considered the fastest defenseman in the league and he will use this breakneck speed to get past just about any defenseman in front of him. When that happens, he has great control of the ball, where he finishes with a 78% lead, which is not only a career high, but also the highest mark for a defender this season. His mid-range game has gradually improved throughout his career, to the point where he is shooting 50% of those shots, which is in the 91st percentile. His 3-point efficiency is the only wobbly moment in his offensive game, but so far in March he has shot 37% from three. You mix it all together and it’s no wonder he was so dangerous with the game at stake.

It’s also rather ironic that two of Fox’s game-winning shots this season have come on three-pointers, an area in which he struggles, including against the Bulls. The other was a random 35-foot match in November against the Orlando Magic:

Fox has offensive weapons capable of destroying almost any defense. But then again, there are many players in the league who have versatile offensive plays that weren’t as deadly as Fox was when the game was on the line. So what sets it up a notch above the rest? If you ask Brown, he’ll bring up not only Fox’s basketball acumen, but aspects that can’t be quantified with statistics alone.

“His presence, calmness, demeanor, whatever you want to call it, has been fantastic throughout all games, especially games with one possession,” Brown said of his All-Star defenseman. “And therefore, for him to enter this trio, I did not respect anyone, but when he shot, I just felt that this was happening. And it has nothing to do with me, because we did nothing but tell everyone to get the hell out. It’s just the confidence he exudes during that time in the game and he’s shown game after game after game that he can do it.”

Fox credits his teammates and coaches for giving him confidence at times like this, and as far as the trend of beating all of his away winners this season, there certainly is some value to it.

“If you ask anyone who’s ever asked me if I’d rather hit a winner at home or on the road, I’d rather do it on the road,” Fox said. “I would rather silence the crowd than succumb to the hype, but I am that kind of person. Quiet, not loud. So I like to do it on the road.”

Whether at home or on the road, Fox has been the reason why Sacramento ranks sixth in clutch win percentage. While other individual awards may be decided in the final game of the regular season, the league should already engrave Fox’s name on this 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 when the game is on the line.


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