De’Aaron Fox and Lonzo Ball felt like a potential individual rivalry that fans of both the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Lakers could enjoy grow over the course of their careers — or at least while both are on their respective teams. As is the case with such rivalries, they both seem to have legitimate respect for each other.
Fox was asked about Ball on FS1’s “Undisputed” and had some very glowing praise for his fellow third-year point guard, as well as some very intelligent analysis on how players get evaluated:
Well, one: He’s a better defender than anybody expected, and I think it’s because he carried such a load offensively at UCLA, but he didn’t have an offseason to do anything. Like, he was hurt the whole offseason, so I think that’s what he’s finally getting this offseason. He got a lot bigger, a long stronger … he’s a lot quicker than he was his first year. He’s just going to grow; he’s going to continue to grow. I mean, we’re 20-21 years old — you expect him to peak at 21? He passes the ball so well, he shot the ball well at UCLA and it’s just adjusting to the NBA.
He’s going to be a great two-way guy. He doesn’t want to score. Everybody knows that. He doesn’t want to score, but he had 30 in his second game in the NBA, so I think it shows that he’s a capable scorer … I think he’s going to shoot the ball a lot better than he has.
Just off the bat, Fox came off as mature well beyond his age throughout this appearance (unlike, perhaps, another point guard who’s been making the media rounds lately). “Student of the game” gets thrown around often enough to be one of the more pervasive clichés in sports but Fox really seems to get it.
Ball vs. Fox is a really fascinating matchup in that Fox does all the things that are easy to notice as they happen in a game (steals, speed, scoring, etc.) while Ball makes his impact almost entirely in the margins and is very capable of a similar or even greater impact depending on how each game goes.
Fox clearly had the better season last year, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we look back after their careers at two players who had very successful runs in the NBA.
While few would complain about the Lakers landing Davis this summer, it would be a disappointment if Ball was shipped out of the division and we lost this mini-rivalry. Still, the top focus on both players is to hope they both stay healthy long enough to make as large impact for whatever team they’re on as they can.