Did De’Aaron Fox make a mistake not playing for Team USA?

EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeAaron Fox smiles during practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images)
EL SEGUNDO, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 15: DeAaron Fox smiles during practice at the 2019 USA Men's National Team World Cup training camp at UCLA Health Training Center on August 15, 2019 in El Segundo, California. (Photo by Cassy Athena/Getty Images) /

In looking to improve upon last season’s surprising success, De’Aaron Fox may have given up on his best chance to help the Sacramento Kings in 2019-20.

As Team USA went through training camp in preparation for the FIBA World Cup earlier this month, one of many things seemed all but guaranteed. In a watered-down talent pool with few options at the point guard position, De’Aaron Fox appeared headed for a spot on the final roster.

Fox averaged 17.3 points and 7.3 assists per game as a sophomore last season while helping the Sacramento Kings to a surprising 39-43 record, their best in over a decade.

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Time spent among the game’s brightest stars in pursuit of a gold medal would surely accelerate his already rapid ascent to better serve his goal of ending the longest current playoff drought in the NBA.

And then, like many players before him, Fox swiftly withdrew from Team USA.

He’s been mum on his motives ever since, but Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports originally reported that the lightning-quick floor general’s decision stems from a desire to focus on the coming season for a team that finished ninth in the Western Conference last year.

It’s an unoriginal response that lacks the depth to justify the decision — not that he needs any. Surely, it couldn’t be for rest purposes, not for a 21-year old headed into just his third season in the NBA without a single minute of postseason mileage on his odometer.

There’s a valid argument to be made for Fox to remain in the states to foster a greater sense of camaraderie among his Kings teammates with private workouts. Does that outweigh the benefits of USA Basketball that have been reaped by many of the games best before him?

Whether competing in FIBA tournaments or the Olympics, NBA stars have produced some of their best work following a stint with Team USA for over a decade.

Following the gold-medal winning 2008 Olympics, LeBron James won his first of four MVP trophies and Dwyane Wade posted a career and league-high 30.2 points per game.

Carmelo Anthony advanced to his only ever appearance in the conference finals — and his only other second-round appearance following the 2012 Olympics.

Dwight Howard led the Orlando Magic to the NBA Finals, where he’d lose to Kobe Bryant in what would be the Mamba’s first championship in the absence of Shaquille O’Neal.

After participating in the 2010 FIBA tournament, Kevin Durant became the youngest scoring champion in NBA history while Russell Westbrook made his first All-Star Game. At just 22 years of age, Derrick Rose became the youngest MVP the league’s ever seen.

James Harden produced his first of what is now three second-place finishes for the MVP trophy. Stephen Curry suited up for the FIBA World Cup in 2014 and won his first MVP while Klay Thompson made his first All-Star Game.

The Splash Brothers then ignited a dynasty with their first title for the Golden State Warriors.

The correlation between career-best seasons and representing one’s country admittedly isn’t as big as these accomplishments would suggest. An MVP trophy seemed inevitable for a talent the caliber of LeBron’s while Kobe’s Los Angeles Lakers had come up short the previous Finals.

But it’s not as small as many up-and-comers seem to be treating it, specifically Fox.

Who saw Rose winning an MVP in just his third season or Curry winning one at all? Playing for Team USA isn’t just about matching up against international competition.

Practices have an unmatched level of competition with insights to be soaked up at every turn, even by those without much on their resume.

Fox is entering his third season in the league, the one where many before him combine potential and experience to produce a breakout campaign.

After a third-place finish in the voting for the Most Improved Player award last season, the former Wildcat seems inevitably due for another step forward alongside similar-minded teammates in Sacramento.

He wants to help the Kings into the playoffs as the leader of any team should.

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In an unforgiving Western Conference, though, Fox missed a golden opportunity to give his squad an extra boost they’ll need to bypass other postseason hopefuls where the margin for error gets slimmer each year.