In this last NBA draft, the Sacramento Kings were the equivalent of bandits intruding on a bank without tellers, security, or any locks. There was no wall of defense to surmount or any subsequent pursuit by any authority as a result. It feels that way: criminal.
The Kings cashed in on a blank check without any consequences when they landed Tyrese Haliburton with the 12th overall pick in the 2020 draft. And with the amount left to the clutches of desire’s heaviest appetite, Haliburton has proven not only a modest relief from a burden, but a potential fortune that may afford years of increased value.
Expectations for the kid have rapidly ascended from hope for a solid contributor in the league to faith in perpetual stardom. This may not be an alternate reality or a bank robber’s fantasy, but the wide-eyed belief in the rookie is justified. Haliburton has what it takes to make it to the top of this league.
Haliburton’s basketball IQ is the attribute that rests atop his impressive skill set. In fact, it is this very strength that serves as the foundation that allows for the advancement of all his other attributes.
For a rookie who has played just 10 games at the NBA level, the intellect is mind-boggling. Right out of the gate, Haliburton demonstrated why the case could be made that he is the smartest player on the team.
Basketball IQ is not only vital during high-intensity, in-game moments, it serves as a guide amidst the journey of continuous improvement. Not only has his wealth of smarts shown efficient decision making, but also incredible versatility in applying that depth of knowledge.
On the offensive side of the ball, Tyrese Haliburton can shoot, pass, and set up an offense with the proficiency of a veteran. Thrusted forward by his adept knowledge of the game, Haliburton is able to impact the game in so many ways on the offensive end.
Haliburton is a great decision maker, and uses it to the team’s advantage in his ability to thread the needle. He always knows how and when to make the perfect pass with precision. Whether it’s setting up a catch and shoot opportunity, lobbing one up for an alley oop, or leading teammates to looks near the basket or in open spots, the rookie makes it look like second nature.
In addition, there is a discretion and maturity that explains why he rarely turns the ball over. Despite all the responsibility and possessions, Haliburton is averaging just one turnover per game. To provide some context, if he does turn it over, it may look something like this:
When those rookie duties spill onto the court. Kings winding down the clock of tonight's win over the Nuggets, & Buddy Hield makes the rookie Tyrese Haliburton take the turnover. It's his 2nd of the game & only 3rd of the young season.
@buddyhield @TyHaliburton22 pic.twitter.com/PPdouI4AtZ
— Sean Cunningham (@SeanCunningham) December 30, 2020
Further evidence of his ripe presence is found in the Assist/Turnover ratio. He is 12th in the league in this category among players who have played at least 10 games and average 20 minutes per contest, culminating to an average of 4.38 assists for every turnover.
Part of a high basketball IQ is prudence. Scoring and highlight reel moments often propel a player to national recognition, but it does not always connote a well-rounded talent. Calculated understanding of the consequences that come with a try-hard mentality show up in the form of shot selection. When shooting the rock, Haliburton seldom forces up tough looks: a whopping 74.1% of his shots come off open or wide open looks.
Due to his basketball brain, Haliburton has worthily garnered national attention by leading the league in Offensive Rating (OFFRTG) at one point in the early part of this season as a rookie. Though he’s no longer the league leader in OFFRTG, he still remains relevant in the category, claiming a solid 111.1 rating.
Naturally, Haliburton’s IQ shows up on the defensive side of the ball as well.
Expansive knowledge on that end of the floor allows him to effectively read the opponent’s offense. There is an incredible defensive literacy when he is on the floor. Haliburton is able to anticipate passing lanes, decisively determine when to switch and double team, and has a sixth sense for rotating.
His defensive IQ has been critical for this team’s early season “success” as he adds a much needed perimeter defender for Walton. This has not only aided in his instant notoriety on the team, but it has also helped him receive attention as a crafty two-way player around the league.
Another extension of his game is Haliburton’s judgement in making the perfect pass. Not only does he know when and how to pass, he is an absolute maestro with the basketball.
Bounce pass, chest pass, or lob pass— it doesn’t matter. The kid expertly gets the ball to where it needs to be.
"Hello, my name's Tyrese Haliburton, and I like to jump pass"
this just made me laugh in the moment. So so good pic.twitter.com/uZDIr8zkwE
— Mark Schindler (@MSchindlerNBA) January 12, 2021
fantastic timing and placement on this lob from Tyrese Haliburton pic.twitter.com/15UJ2tDqsK
— Karens In Paris (@NekiasNBA) December 27, 2020
This ability has opened up immense possibilities in the pick and roll because he is equipped with the hybrid ability to dish it or take it himself depending on the best option.
— NBA Draft (@NBADraft) January 10, 2021
His effective passing is so established that Luke Walton already trusts Haliburton to make inbound passes in key situations.
As Doug Christie noted, even when no one can get open off the inbound pass, the rookie passes his teammates open. That is to say he sees plays several steps ahead from the present moment and is able to capitalize on limited opportunities. This is a result of his veteran-like grasp of the game and his impeccable passing precision.
Coming out of the draft, Haliburton was considered a playmaking prodigy, and his gameplay is easily backing up the notion.
Haliburton gave to the Kings what they needed most: not the size, non the shooting, not the passing but the high level IQ pic.twitter.com/YMrOm1voLc
— Paolo Di Francesco (@DiFraP_8) January 7, 2021
Generally, an incoming prospect with upward trending potential will possess a wide range of skills as we have seen in Tyrese Haliburton. Of all skills for young talent, shooting is one that can be efficiently improved upon throughout the years. After three or four years in the league, a mediocre shooter can become dangerous. So, efficient and strong shooting ability is icing on the cake for an already impressive first-year player.
Haliburton’s shooting has been incredible. He is currently carrying shooting splits of:
52.1 3P% – 6th best in the league
70.1 TS% – 6th best in the league
What’s most impressive from those splits is his three point shooting ability. There were questions as to whether or not Haliburton’s unconventional shot form would translate well into the NBA, but after knocking down 25 threes in 10 games at a 52.1% clip, good enough for 6th best in the league, he has cast those doubts aside.
Haliburton with the deep 3.
His shooting %s after 9 GMS:
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 12, 2021
The fakes and the 3 from Haliburton. Man. pic.twitter.com/v9d4i4FLYz
— Tony Xypteras (@TonyXypteras) January 9, 2021
Incredibly, the majority of Haliburton’s shots come from three point range. His 48 attempts from three-point land lead his next most attempted shot type by 30 attempts.
With strong outside shooting ability, all other scoring capabilities fall into place nicely. In the other categories, he is shooting the ball at a high clip:
Bank shot: 3/3-100%
Two-point jump shot: 11/18-61.1%
Haliburton has proven to be a pass-first guard, but this is not indicative of an inept scoring ability because, when given the opportunity, he can put up points on the board quickly and effectively.
His shooting ability will definitely be crucial in his career, especially with how critical the long ball is in today’s game.
In conjunction with the wide array of value on the offensive end, Haliburton’s defensive ability has proven that he is a great two-way player. He grabs steals, plays great on and off ball defense, and as mentioned previously, has the IQ to switch, double team, and rotate effectively.
With a 6’7.5” wingspan to guard his opponents, Haliburton can easily trap defenders, interrupt passing lanes, and poke the ball away. Physical gifts mean nothing, however, unless you know how to utilize them.
Watching Haliburton, from the little things to the big things, he does everything right on defense: he always works to close out on the shooter, displays sprightly anticipation for passes, and puts himself in a position to be involved in every type of play.
Do yourself a favor and ONLY watch Tyrese Haliburton's defense
— Sanjesh Singh (@TheSanjeshSingh) December 30, 2020
His offensive ability might stand out as exceptional, but his defense is what has and will continue to push Haliburton’s game to an elite level.
90 seconds of Tyrese Haliburton making plays on defense in the preseason pic.twitter.com/xoXACLmPzQ
— Tony Xypteras (@TonyXypteras) December 19, 2020
In just 10 games, Haliburton has shown that he possesses the clutch gene, seemingly knocking down every big-time shot in every key situation.
Tyrese Haliburton with the clutch 3
— NBA SKITS (@NBA_Skits) January 7, 2021
Tyrese Haliburton drilled B2B big time threes
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 24, 2020
Tyrese Haliburton hits a 3 late game then stares down Boogie…what a clutch moment from the rookie
— @Hoopsxcenter (@Hoopsxcenter1) January 11, 2021
He doesn’t back away from the big moment, but rather embraces it. This is pleasantly reminiscent of De’Aaron Fox and the late game buckets he dropped throughout his rookie season.
Haliburton’s great play and clutch factor has been so overwhelming that he has been closing games for Luke Walton since opening night. This decision has paid off for Walton as Haliburton is in the top 15 in fourth quarter scoring, surrounded in the category by proven superstars.
It’s refreshing to have a player on the floor who is willing and proven to make the right play or take the big shot when the game is at its climax.
You wouldn’t think a rookie would be a leader on an NBA team, but as we know, Tyrese is not a typical rookie. He may not be Harrison Barnes in the locker room (yet), but his leadership on the court has already been impressive.
What really stood out was in Tyrese’s two game absence when the Kings played the Rockets and Warriors. Without him, Sacramento looked lost and even sunk below .500 after a fast start to the season.
In those two games, the offense looked atrocious, amassing 28 turnovers on just 31 assists with a defense looking like a cluster of glaciers. As a result, the team lost the second of those games by more than 30 points.
When he returned against the Bulls, the team looked vastly different with Haliburton, finishing the game with 30 assists, 7 turnovers, and the win. Perhaps even more impressive than the win was the kid’s fourth quarter performance.
After Fox left the game due to hamstring tightness just five minutes into the contest, Haliburton grabbed the reins and maintained a path to victory for the team. However, in the fourth quarter, Haliburton took it up several notches, scoring 15 of 17 points and knocking down a dagger three.
TYRESE HALIBURTON IS CLUTCH
The Kings rookie scored 15 of his season-high 17 in the 4th quarter!
17 PTS, 7 REB, 6 AST, 3 STL, 1 BLK, 0 TO pic.twitter.com/fbc6Kck4QN
— Ballislife.com (@Ballislife) January 7, 2021
It was not just an effort that made up for the loss of Fox, it provided a model for stepping up that makes a temporary loss of your best player feel less severe.
Haliburton is a true leader on the court. His hustle, heart, and overall effective play is infectious. The team plays better when he’s on the floor which is yet another sign that he is developing into a true leader for his team in a manner unlike any other rookie.
Because of how impressive he has been from the gate, Haliburton is a contender for Rookie of the Year. Beyond that, his aspirations inevitably reach further than winning a first-year award.
His basketball IQ, offensive and defensive ability, and his intangibles are off the charts for a player this early in his career, and they will continue to develop and get better the more time he plays.
Kings fans are rightfully ecstatic about what they have and what it will look like down the line. Tyrese Haliburton will be a star in this league and his play so far this season is only a small glimpse into what he will accomplish during his whole career.