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30Q: Can Tyrese Haliburton become a star?

Tyrese Haliburton's growth over his rookie season shows he could exceed every pre-draft expectation.

Tyrese Haliburton is damn good at basketball. The 21-year-old averaged 13 points, 5.3 assists, 3 rebounds, and 1.3 steals for the Kings last year while shooting 47% from the field and 40.9% from deep. He was one of the Sacramento Kings most important players last season, and played with awareness and confidence far beyond most rookies.

The 2020 NBA Draft class proved to be a deep group, full of a ton of talented youngsters good enough to overcome transitioning to the NBA in the midst of a pandemic - but Haliburton was arguably the most consistent and efficient rookie across the whole messy season, and he proved himself to be outstanding in clutch situations.

It isn’t hyperbole to say that Haliburton exceeded most expectations fans and experts had for him last year. Of course, some of that pre-draft chatter was laughable—anyone who really worried if his funky-looking shooting mechanics would keep him from being a good standstill shooter hadn’t watched enough Iowa State tape—but he overcame both the silly and understandable concerns.

In my prospect profile for Haliburton last November, I worried that he wasn’t a great self-creator (he shot 28.1% on dribble jumpers in his sophomore season), and then when he hit the NBA hardwood, he started popping three pointers off the dribble. I worried about his lack of pick-and-roll success at Iowa State, and then he put on pick-and-roll clinics in the clutch. I worried that he was too skinny to play defense, and then his basketball genius translated almost immediately.

There’s still plenty for Haliburton to improve at - his handle currently limits him as a driving threat, he needs to bulk up to succeed in a three guard lineup, and he only attempted 56 free throws last season. But I'm not going to bet against him figuring out ways to overcome these limitations. I wrote after his draft selection that it would surprise me if Haliburton ever challenged for an All Star spot or became a top scorer on a good NBA team - but also noted “given Haliburton’s truly exceptional basketball instincts and maturity, nothing is out of play.” After a year of watching Haliburton’s exceptional basketball instincts and growth, I’m done putting any ceiling on Tyrese’s NBA outcome. There just aren’t many players with his combination of skills, versatility, and court wizardry. While De’Aaron Fox is the squad’s engine, we shouldn’t be surprised when Haliburton steps out of his shadow and proves just as important to the future of Sacramento Kings.

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Gojira2021
September 7, 2021 10:25 am

Yes.

andy_sims
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September 7, 2021 10:36 am

Haliburton is already coveted by many teams, especially a whole bunch of them that declined to draft him. “Star” is something of a nebulous term, but I think that he could have an impact similar to that of CJ McCollum, but as a much better defender. He’ll need to do all of the things that you recommend, and with his smarts and innate feel for the game, he really could be a damned good ballplayer over the course of his career.

And I’m really glad that you added that tweet from the Brooklyn game, because I don’t think that there’s a single better visual representation of what Haliburton is already doing, that so many players have never been able to do. He sees farther down the road, makes quick decisions, and gets himself into position to succeed. Those things are so much more valuable than if he could jump a few inches higher or run a bit faster.

murraytant
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September 7, 2021 2:58 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

Fascinating- I was going to compare his impact to CJ and you jumped in front. Their games are entirely different but the impact might be the same. Different type of game and different “impact” but similar level of impact. He averaged 13 as a rookie and did not start. Players can bump up 3-4 points per game in second year. ( although Bagley did not) Don’t have the numbers here but I bet that is about the level of the CJ bump up.
Is CJ a star?
Then he could rise to level of Jalen Brown. It took him a couple of years.
He does not have the athleticism to take over a game but he is so diversified that he can influence game for long stretches.

andy_sims
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September 7, 2021 3:33 pm
Reply to  murraytant

McCollum is a guy that I really loved during the run-up to his draft, for a lot of the same reasons I wanted Haliburton. It was obvious from the start that these guys were effing smart, and I covet smart athletes for my teams.

Fox is not Lillard, but Tyrese can fall into a similar role with him that CJ has in Portland. With his willingness and acumen in playing defense, Haliburton could potentially be better when all is said and done, and that’s an unqualified win when it comes to drafting a guy.

As far as being stars, it’s tough to say. I think with the right roster, where it was CJ’s team, he could be, but I don’t think he gives a damn about whether or not he’s The Man. He seems to want to do whatever will help the team win, without concerning himself about the spotlight. And those guys are key to making a team hum.

It definitely works better when you’ve got a Dame Lillard on your team, though.

SexyNapear
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September 7, 2021 10:39 am

don’t see star. I just don’t see the athleticism to take over a game, which to me is what star is all about. But an amazing cog in a winning team? Yes.

andy_sims
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September 7, 2021 11:04 am
Reply to  SexyNapear

The kind of athleticism possessed by, say, Nikola Jokic or Dirk Nowitizki?

Adamsite
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Nostradumbass 14
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Nostradumbass 14
September 7, 2021 11:12 am
Reply to  andy_sims

Yeah, that Steve Nash dude was a high flyer as well.

SexyNapear
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