LEXINGTON, Ky. — Sorry, Tom Hanks, but there is crying in basketball and Kentucky star De’Aaron Fox’s tears after the Wildcats lost on a last-second shot in the Elite Eight last month might’ve even made him a little extra money.
“The video after Kentucky lost, to see the passion and the pain on his face from losing that game, I actually think that resonated with teams,” ESPN NBA draft analyst Chad Ford told SEC Country. “There’s the hate-to-lose and love-to-win thing that everyone talks about in the NBA, and Fox has both of those. He loves to win and he hates to lose, and I think that’s going to help him come draft time.”
Very emotional Kentucky locker room as expected. pic.twitter.com/ksNn4iOGHW
— Joe Mussatto (@joe_mussatto) March 26, 2017
It’s hardly just the crying that boosted Fox’s draft prospects, however. His dominant postseason run, which included MVP of the SEC Tournament and 39 points against potential No. 1 pick Lonzo Ball and UCLA in the Sweet 16, suddenly put him in the conversation as the best point guard in a draft class full of great ones.
“I think he may have helped himself more than any of the top prospects in the draft,” said Ford, adding that Fox’s game against Ball “might’ve been the single-most dominant freshman performance that we saw, especially considering who it was against. At this point, everybody understands the basketball skills; they’ve been heavily scouted since high school. It’s about how they reacted to the big stage, how they reacted to the matchup, and how Fox seemed to thrive in that big moment and Ball wilted a little bit under that pressure. I think that’s the narrative that’s going to help Fox.”
Ford still has Washington point guard Markelle Fultz going No. 1 overall and Ball No. 2 — Draft Express has them in that same order — but now believes Fox could go as high as No. 4 and no lower than No. 8 on the big night in June. Ford’s latest mock draft for ESPN has Fox seventh, while Draft Express projects him fifth.
The only real worry about Fox, the fastest point guard in this draft, is his inconsistent jump shot. But is there a chance teams at the top roll the dice on his intangibles?
“The passion, the intensity, the decision-making is in some ways stronger than any of the other point guards in this draft,” Ford said. “You look at Markelle Fultz: lots of questions about him at times during the season about how passionate he was and whether he cared about winning. Dennis Smith (another projected top-10 point guard), considering what North Carolina State did: major questions about that as well.
“Less so about Lonzo Ball, and he had his moments as well, but when you saw them on the court in comparison with each other, if you’re just drafting a guy who’s gritty, if you’re going to say, ‘Who has the mental makeup and toughness?’ I think De’Aaron Fox wins that argument.”
Wildcats in mock drafts
ESPN: 5. De’Aaron Fox, 6. Malik Monk, 32. Bam Adebayo
Draft Express: 4. Malik Monk, 7. De’Aaron Fox, 19. Bam Adebayo
NBA.com: 4. De’Aaron Fox, 6. Malik Monk, 22. Bam Adebayo
NBAdraft.net: 4. De’Aaron Fox, 8. Malik Monk, 20. Bam Adebayo
* Listen to our full conversation with Chad Ford on Everybody’s Superpod, a Kentucky basketball podcast presented by SEC Country. Subscribe and catch up on the first 10 episodes on iTunes.