Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said that he is the fastest player in the NBA. The tracking data mostly support his rather bold claim.
The second-year player told Chris Haynes that there should not be a debate about whether or not he is faster than any of his competitors (via Yahoo):
“People debate it all the time … [Debating if I’m one of the] top three or four fastest players in the league. Nah, I’m not up there. I’m No. 1. … I be watching film and I be looking at my feet and I be like, ‘Man, there’s no way people think I’m not the fastest person … I’m faster than John Wall … I’m faster than John. Russ is extremely explosive. I’m faster than Westbrook … If we’re talking about from baseline to baseline with the ball in my hands, I’m definitely the fastest person in the league.”
Kentucky head coach John Calipari has said that Fox is faster than Wall, per Stack.com. He worked with both players when they played NCAA basketball so he would have one of the most unbiased takes on the situation.
Fox is specifically talking about going from one side of the court to the other with the ball in his hands. During these situations, he would be moving at his top speed.
This was shown when working with ESPN’s Sport Science and he was able to sprint from the three-point line to the rim in under 1.3 seconds.
The data provided by Second Spectrum through the league website, however, only calculates the miles per hour using distance traveled and minutes played this season. While this does not show the player at his maximum velocity, it’s still an insightful indication about the way he moves on the court.
Among the 78 players in the league who have played at least 30 minutes per game, only two players (Sacramento backcourt partner Buddy Hield as well as Miami wing Rodney McGruder) have averaged a greater speed when on the floor than Fox has thus far.
As noted by Michael Pina, the data provided does not show the only ways that speed is used on a court and is limited due to various factors (via VICE Sports):
“There are myriad reasons why any player’s average speed might fluctuate from year to year—injuries, surrounding personnel, and playing style, to name a few—and the data provided by NBA.com doesn’t nearly go deep enough to form any conclusion either way.”
Sacramento is currently playing at the fastest pace in the Western Conference and the system that head coach Dave Joerger has built is intended to aid the speed of his point guard now that Fox is no longer a rookie. ‘
The Kings lead the NBA in possessions finished per game (25.3) while in a transition offense, per Synergy Sports. Fox still trails just LeBron James and Kevin Durant for total points scored in transition thus far.
Additionally, point guards like Wall and Russell Westbrook were often lauded as the fastest players in the NBA earlier in their careers. But both were criticized, at times, for only playing at one speed.
As they’ve become veterans, they’ve added new elements that often requires the game to slow down a bit. Fox, still early in his career, plays for an offense that requires him to move the ball up the court at a rapid tempo. Because this is the bread and butter of their offense, it helps him appear faster via tracking data.
Regardless of who would win in a 40-yard dash between him and Westbrook or another player like Ish Smith, it’s no secret that Fox has changed his team due to his velocity.