Having won the first two Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards this season, Tyrese Haliburton was easily regarded as the front runner for the Rookie of the Year when LaMelo Ball went down with injury.
Since beginning his career in late December, Haliburton was surpassing expectation after expectation, peaking in February, when he averaged 16.2 points per game on 51.3% shooting in the month.
However, later in February going into March, an injured Haliburton sat out four games, a span that lead straight into the all star break. With ample rest, Haliburton was eased back into the lineup, playing only 18 mins in a blowout win over Houston.
Three games later, Haliburton was handed a starting role for the foreseeable future after Marvin Bagley went down with a fractured hand.
With Haliburton’s move to the starting five, the Kings immediately won 7 of 8 games with the rookie playing extraordinary basketball and looking like the player he was before his four-game absence.
In those eight games, Haliburton averaged 15.8 points on 51% shooting while knocking down triples at a 42.5% clip and dishing out 4.5 assists each contest.
Kings fans saw a glimpse into their future as the dynamic, starting backcourt of Fox and Haliburton was developing way ahead of schedule.
But then, like a piano falling from the sky in typical Kings fashion, Sacramento went on to lose nine straight games. During this cold streak, Haliburton began to struggle and Walton moved him back to the bench in favor of Moe Harkless.
Between the time the Kings lost their first game of the nine-game losing streak and Sacramento’s most recent win against Minnesota on April 21, the up and coming rook saw his numbers dip to just 10.7 points a game on 41.7% shooting.
Due to his poor performances, Haliburton began slipping in the rookie ladder. In fact, when the April 21 report came out, Haliburton was down to the fourth spot on a list he had once been atop of.
Then news broke last week that De’Aaron Fox would be sidelined at least 10-14 days due to health and safety protocols, moving Tyrese back to the starting lineup, this time as the point guard.
Prior to his move back to a starting role, April showcased Haliburton’s worst basketball.
But it wasn’t the end of the world.
In two games after being shifted back to the starting lineup, Haliburton appears to be making one last, late season push for the Rookie of the Year award.
Haliburton scored 24 points on 10/20 shooting while gifting his teammates 8 assists in his first game starting in place of Fox. The rookie made a couple late game baskets to keep the game close before ultimately succumbing to Steph Curry and the Warriors.
On Monday night against Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks, Haliburton stood out once again, recording his fourth career double-double with 14 points and 10 assists, while leading the Kings to a win over the sixth seed in the West.
With Fox out and Haliburton given the reigns to the team, it is his opportunity to prosper and show fans the type of player he truly is. So far, he has not let us down.
With Fox out a handful more games at least, the Kings could shut him down for the remainder of the season since any chance at the playoffs is unrealistic at this point. If that happens, it would give Haliburton a chance to woo the league and rise back up the rookie ladder once more.
With Anthony Edwards excelling and LaMelo Ball nearing a return, Haliburton has his work cut out for him if he wants to claw his way back up as a legit contender in the ROY race.
Even if he doesn’t win Rookie of the Year, all Kings fans can ask for is that he finishes the year off strong and gives fans hope for what’s to come from a tandem of Fox and Haliburton.
There’s still a good chunk of games left, and with Fox out, Haliburton has his best opportunity to show what he’s really made of. Judging from his last two games, Haliburton could very well continue to trend upwards as the lead facilitator. He has the opportunity to somewhat steady a seemingly lost season by finishing his first year on a strong note, making a case for the ROY award, and advertising what glories may lie in Sacramento’s future.