General Info: 20-year-old Sophomore, played for Iowa State University. From Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Measurables: 6'5.5", 175 lbs, 6'7.5 wingspan.
2019-20 Season Statistics: 15.2 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 6.5 APG, 2.5 SPG, 0.7 BPG, 2.8 TOPG (22 games played, 36.7 minutes a contest) 50.4% FG, 82.2% FT, 41.9% 3P
Tyrese Haliburton is a basketball enigma. He's a maestro with the basketball who excelled as the college season's greatest playmaker, even while rarely demanding the ball and with clear weaknesses when it's in his hands. At first glance, it may be confusing how this skinny combo guard with an average NBA toolset led a Big 12 team in per-game numbers for points, rebounds, assists, steals, and true shooting percentage. But spend ten minutes watching Haliburton play and it's clear why Kings fans should be excited; Haliburton turned an exceedingly average Iowa State squad into must-watch basketball thanks to his insane passing instincts, excellent court vision, and undeniable offensive value. When the Kings selected Haliburton with the 12th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, they added a catalyst player who can truly optimize the rest of the Sacramento roster and become a near picture-perfect offensive partner for De'Aaron Fox.
The headline for Haliburton are his elite passing instincts - his playmaking ability is a thing of basketball art, and he has excellent offensive awareness and pinpoint accuracy.
Haliburton is a misdirection ninja, directing defenders with his eyes and opening passing lanes most college players never see. The gravity he generated by being such a willing playmaker is fun to watch. He averaged 7 assists per 40 minutes, and did so with an impressive 2.3/1 assist-to-turnover ratio. That number was even more impressive as a freshman, when Haliburton averaged 4.2 assists and just 1(!) turnover per 40 minutes. That said, it's key to point out that Haliburton was never the highest-usage guard in the Cyclones offense. His freshman season, he deferred to both Marial Shayok and now-LA Laker Talen Horton-Tucker. His sophomore season, despite leading the team in points and assists and rebounds and true shooting percentage, Haliburton's usage rate (20.9%) ended up 4th among Cyclone starters. Haliburton isn't a player who will need to command the ball at an excessive rate in order to be a key piece of the offense.
He is the crowned prince of the jump pass, a terrible play for 99% of basketball players but masterpiece theater for Tyrese. This instinct sometimes leaves him lost in the air with nothing to do, but far less often than it would for most players.
As a scorer, Haliburton is an efficient player, one with clear strengths and weaknesses. On the most basic level, 15.2 points per game with a 50/40/80 line in a big time conference shows he's a dang promising shooter, albeit one with funky push-shot mechanics. As a guard who didn't need the ball in his hands at an insane level, it's no surprise that his most efficient shot is off the catch; he shot 49.3% on catch-and-shoot shots (98th percentile, per Synergy Sports), and was in the 90s percentiles for both guarded AND unguarded shots. While his release speed isn't always ideal, he's sped it up tremendously from his freshman season, and his mechanics are consistent.
Haliburton's creativity shined brightest in transition, where he was insanely efficient; per Synergy, he scored 1.39 points per transition possession, 93rd percentile for the NCAA. When you add in his own shots and his assists in transition, that jumps to 1.76 points per possession, 99th percentile. And this was all on a Cyclones team with only one other major scorer (Rasir Bolton) and a serious lack of shooting talent. Haliburton will likely thrive in an NBA open court if surrounded by another initiator, some shooters, and a rim-runner.
While all of Haliburton's strengths add up to a versatile offensive weapon, to this point in his basketball career his offense has suffered from a large limitation; he is not a strong individual creator, and will likely struggle at the next level to create his own shot. He was not a strong on-ball scorer at Iowa State, and in a stronger, faster NBA game, that's not likely to change immediately.
While his funky shooting mechanics work off the catch, his shot was limiting when he tried to shoot off the dribble. He shot just 28.1% on dribble jumpers in his sophomore season. This is a real swing skill at the next level - here's hoping he's been working on quickening his release and better utilizing screens to get him the space he needs.
Haliburton was also not a big threat to attack the basket in college. Of his 204 shot attempts in the half-court last season, only 38 were at the rim (per Synergy). While his success on those shots went up towards the end of his season and ended up respectable (1.21 PPP, 67th percentile), his attempts at the rim were limited by his less than ideal strength. In the clip below, Alabama's James Bolden (generously listed at 6'0 and 160 lbs) easily contains Haliburton on the drive.
There's a reason why Haliburton, the nation's best passer, generated only 0.74 points per possession in the pick-and-roll (31st percentile, which includes passing plays); without craft at the rim or a really tight handle, defenses hedged against his rollers and dared him to keep the ball. And while he flashed a floater now and then (.89 PPP, 29 attempts), it wasn't enough to consistently make Tyrese into a real scoring option himself.
Finally, Haliburton did not get to the line much, finishing with a free throw attempt rate of just 18.4%. The fact that Haliburton only shot 71 free throw attempts in his 1,970 minutes at Iowa State - basically, one free throw every 27.7 minutes - highlights that he wasn't the most physical or determined individual scorer.
If Haliburton was expected to come into the NBA and be a primary ball handler and offensive engine, the last 4 paragraphs would be extremely worrying - but being the primary handler is not what anyone should expect for Tyrese in Sacramento. De'Aaron Fox is the on-ball creator, the one who breaks down the defense¦ and next to Fox, as a secondary playmaker whose shooting value peaks in an off-ball role, Tyrese will shine. Lonzo Ball is one of the more used/applicable comps for Haliburton, and Ball's time in both Los Angeles and New Orleans proves that even elite passers can only have so much value at the next level if they can't create their own shots or aren't paired with another initiators. But the difference between Ball and Haliburton is that Tyrese is much more proven catch-and-shoot player than Lonzo was coming into the league - defenses won't be able to play off him. But to evolve past the connector role, and become the real offensive force his passing game begs him to become, Haliburton MUST find avenues to score beyond shots off the catch.
While Haliburton makes most of his highlights on offense, he's also a havoc creator on defense. Considering he isn't the fastest or strongest dude on the court, nothing highlights his defensive instincts more than his 2.5 steals per contest (a 3.8% steal rate) and 2% block rate. His court awareness isn't just an offensive gift - he reads opposing offenses well, stays engaged, and gets results.
Tyrese will undoubtedly have rookie struggles as he adapts to NBA speed and strength, especially considering his own slight frame). Given time and an NBA weight program, I expect Haliburton will become a damn promising on ball defender, as long as he isn't asked to handle taller forwards on a regular basis. That said, his true defensive potential - that as an off-ball havoc maker - will only be unlocked when the Kings add stronger defenders around him. The team still desperately needs high-end wing and forward defenders to optimize the De'Aaron Fox/Haliburton backcourt. But if that happens, and he finds more opportunities to float on defense¦ watch out.
Given his unusual set of skills and odd combination of weaknesses, it would greatly surprise me if Haliburton ever challenged for an All Star spot, became a top scorer on a good NBA team, or turned into what casual basketball fans consider a star' player. Sure, given Haliburton's truly exceptional basketball instincts and maturity, nothing is out of play. Maybe the long layoff gave Tyrese the practice time needed to come into the league with an insane growth in his handles and shot mechanics, and he becomes a truly dangerous on-ball scoring threat - anything is possible for a guy with his drive. But if Haliburton continues to play and develop the way he has at Iowa State, he will never be a go-to guy on a top-tier team.
That said, none of this diminishes the massive impact I expect Tyrese Haliburton to have on this Kings team. He has the chance to be a basketball catalyst, the guy who makes everyone better on the court - the new-age version of Vlade Divac and Doug Christie from the Kings' golden era. Speaking of Christie, DC is one of my favorite comps for Haliburton (and one that I share with the GOAT Jerry Reynolds!). While Tyrese will likely never reach Christie's top tier on-ball defense (or the same level of athleticism or bulk), he shares Doug's skills as an excellent facilitator, off-ball shooter, team defender, and elite make-it-all-work dude. The Kings have needed a new Doug Christie-type player since Doug Christie left.
De'Aaron Fox will thrive playing next to a truly willing, elite playmaker who can also create gravity without the ball. The Kings offense, both in transition and in the halfcourt, will improve by having another dynamic passer who can thrive in a hyper-speed offense. If Buddy Hield sticks around, he can go back to a max-of-four-dribbles role and stop having to pretend to be a point guard, and boy will his movement shooting skills be better utilized with two high-end initiators running with him. And if Marvin Bagley can stay healthy, he'll benefit from Haliburton's passes, spacing, and unselfish play - because for Haliburton to truly become a top-tier off-ball creator, we should all hope that Marvin Bagley becomes that self-creation force we know he wants to be.
The Sacramento Kings were not walking out of the 2020 Draft with a player who'd give them a chance at a 2021 playoff birth. A seamless, perfect fit did not exist at pick #1 or #12. The team still needs stronger individual creators, stronger defenders, and a dang high-end rim protector. But of the players in the Kings range, Monte McNair selected the one who fits best with De'Aaron Fox, his only guaranteed franchise tentpole. While Vlade Divac passed on a future Hall of Famer because he didn't want to take the ball out of Fox's hands, McNair clearly knows this isn't a league where one playmaker can work alone. Fox will surely benefit from Haliburton's skillset, and the fact that Tyrese doesn't need to command the ball constantly to provide offensive value will make the rookie transition smoother and faster.
In addition to being one of the more enjoyable players to watch and scout last season, there's also every indication from coaches, insiders, and teammates that Haliburton is an elite character person and truly dedicated to his sport. While he's a player with clear, defined weaknesses, Haliburton is a basketball-fit catalyst, and one who can truly help optimize the rest of the Kings talents around him - and one I guarantee will become a fan favorite in the process. The Sacramento Kings made the right selection in the 2020 NBA draft, and the long-term potential of this team is all the better for it.
I’m so excited for this kid. I still can’t believe he fell to the Kings at #12.
I’m still stuck on that, too. When the draft got to 11 and he and Vassell were still available, I knew we were going to get a very good player. He’s got the brains and instincts, and it is going to be a lot of fun to watch him learn as he goes.
I can’t believe he angled to get to Sacramento!
Yeah me too its about time we get high Iq pass first players! Cant wait to see Hali and Fox in our new offense with our new offensive coordinator with buddy and Barnes on the wings and Bags thats your closing lineup right there hopefully!!
Excellent read as always. I am curious to see how he gels with Fox in the backcourt. If only Luke Walton allows the team to push the tempo to what we had before.
Superb write up Bryant, I appreciate all of the research and how complete it is.
I am really looking forward to seeing how he develops, and certainly seems like the kind of guard that should be in the backcourt with Fox.
I am genuinely intrigued to watch what lineups end up on the floor when the season starts. I like our potential talent but I don’t have faith Walton will utilize them properly. I hope Monte has a say in how lineups should been ran because clearly Walton doesn’t know how to maximize his players
Haliburton is absolutely the only interest I have in the upcoming Kings season, if we had drafted anyone else, I’d taken mo interest.
Good job Monte and Ken.
He was the only player I was interested in getting if the Kings decided to move up the draft. You could imagine how stoked I was when he fell to 12 and the Kings actually didn’t passed him up! Excited to see him play and the Kings in general.
Same. I thought there was no way he’d fall out of the top 5. I was hoping he might fall to 6 where the Hawks were and the Kings could swing a trade.
Excited to see Haliburton in action but I am also willing to be patient with him if he struggles off the gate. With the lack of Summer League and with the compress schedule and all that is happening this year its just impossible for a rookie to make a strong impact on Day 1.
It all comes down to the offensive schemes which I expect will be much improved with Gentry as our offensive coordinator. If the Kings can somehow get back to their running ways like 2 years ago and can properly utilize each personnel on the roster I can definitely see Haliburton thriving in year 1. Might struggle a little bit his first couple of games but I can bank on it he’ll steadily improve as the season goes along. Probably wouldn’t surprise me if he flirts on a triple double on some nights.
He’s probably going to struggle a bit. At least in terms of traditional measures. The keys will be: 1. Patience. And 2. Understanding how to measure his value (since PPG won’t likely be it.).
Agreed with all of this. Anyone expecting Haliburton to immediately be starter-ready or replace Bogi’s lost production is overrating how tough I think it’ll be for him to adjust to NBA speed and strength. But by the end of his rookie season/early year 2, watch out. Dude is just too smart to struggle for all that long.
Yeah we might see some comments about him bein a bust if he struggles off the gate especially if the expectation is he immediately replaces Bogi’s production in year 1 which is unrealistic tbh. He might struggle his first few months (as most rookies do) in the league but I expect him to get better as the season rolls along. And you are right, he’s too smart to not be able to figure it out throughout the season. And as BHE mentioned below, its understanding how to measure his value. I won’t even look at his PPG as a measuring stick. I’ll measure him on his impact when he’s in the game. Does he do the little things? Does he rebound, does he create for others? Does he setup his teammates well? Those are the things that I am looking forward when watching Tyrese play this season.
The fact that I can answer “yes” to all those questions at the end should give indication to my own optimism for Tyrese. Dude may not make huge stat sheet contributions, but he’ll be an impact player.
Anyone who would label a player drafted at 12 as a bust in his first season doesn’t know a damned thing about athletics.
Yeah it’s probably best to temper expectations. Hopefully he will be put in positions to succeed, as opposed to being anointed as a “franchise cornerstone” right out of the gate. I think quality role player is the likely outcome, and that is a pretty decent win for the #12 pick in this draft.
I think he and Fox together could be fun. Maybe if they run the way they should, we can have the “Flash Bros” in Sactown.
You need to trademark that flash bros now. I have a feeling we’re going to hear that a lot in the future.
Haha, I hope so. I give the idea to Kings Herald, free of charge 😉 Maybe some T-shirts can be made…
…And WHY doesn’t De’Aaron Fox have some shoes with the Flash logo on it yet? Can we get in touch with his manager 🙂
I agree with all of you. I think he’ll be measured in a Marcus smart(not comparing the two or saying they are close defensively) way. He seems like a talker too. Not afraid to speak his mind for a rookie. I like that. I think he’ll add value similarly to Smart.
If he’s able to provide even a portion of what Smart does as a floor general, it would be fantastic. I think he’s the type who is going to be talking on defense, getting his teammates to the spots where they need to be.
It’s going to be “fun” when Haliburton pushes Hield to the bench. Though I’m guessing, even if they should, they won’t actually do that. Looking at expectations for this season, I would guess they’ll trade Hield before they bench him this year.
Agreed. Only way I can see Haliburton starting is either Fox gets injured or Hield gets traded. I just don’t see the Kings benching Hield in favor of a rookie even if Haliburton probably deserves to start especially if he impacts the game more than Hield.
You can’t maximize Hield’s potential trade value by giving him an extremely limited role. Buddy is going to have to play a lot of minutes (and produce) if the Kings are to receive anything worthwhile in trade.
Fantastic write up Bryant, I do love a lot of his skills but we have to remember he is the 12th pick in what is considered a weak draft. The chances of him being a star or a player that makes a huge difference is very small, I hope that he becomes a better player than Bogi and I will be ecstatic
Looking at the videos, I’m wondering if any concentrated time in the lab will help this kid, or hurt him. Those shot mechanics are…interesting. I just don’t want the Kings turning this kid into this year’s version of Markelle Fultz.
The good news is, I’m seeing some flashes of J-Dub in his open court/transition passing, which is ALWAYS nice to see.
I see a better shooting combo of Evan Turner and Shaun Livingston. Neither was a star, but they contributed to better team basketball way more than they were given credit for.
Yeah, a better-shooting Shaun Livingston (and without the injuries) would be a very very good player.
That is the hope!
Another one that comes to mind is a shorter Nic Batum. Batum came into the league as a skinny lengthy kid but developed into a nice point forward. I could see Hali approaching his mid-career numbers of something like 15, 6, and 5.
Maybe some realistic positive expectations for the first couple seasons at least would be something like what Dejounte Murray has done thus far. Although I hope Ty can stay on the court more!
Yeah, he is another good example, as is fellow Spur Derrick White.
Down for Shaun Livingston’s mid-range!
I was fortunate to see Tyrese playing versus Texas this last February. I came to the game while on vacation and had no prior knowledge of either team. By the 2nd half, I had looked up Tyrese and his highlights and attributes. He doesn’t stick out as a star but seems to be the glue guy that comes up with well-timed gameplay. He does everything a little bit well and it is clear he has incredible court vision. While we have always complained about the +/- of Kings players in the past, this guy would seemingly be a net positive without needing to score or have the ball in his hands.
I’m feeling a lot more optimistic after reading this. Of course, at the same time, I just hope Alton doesn’t ruin him.
WOW what a great article, that was a joy to read.
Individual and specific offensive skills are one thing I kind of expect to see improvement from high IQ rookies, as they become surrounded with more knowledgeable coaching staffs. It will be interesting to gauge his improvement with specific offensive skills moving forward.
A scene in Moneyball where Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill were talking about an analytic darling with weird pitching form who was a perfect for the A’s because people overlooked him. I watch Haliburton’s shot and think about that scene in the movie.
A lot of the players we are signing fit that moneyball mold. Even whiteside statistically. I’m excited to see if it actually works in the nba.
I believe his name was Chad LaBradford
Nice article Bryant!
I literally had to delete a comment in the other thread because this is much more detailed.
What I was getting at is that I think McNair has done a pretty good job of building a team that can be play fast and smart. With Fox and Halliburton, the Kings now have a pretty lethal 1-2 punch from that perspective. I don’t really like football analogies, but they kinda have Tyreek Hill/Patrick Mahomes vibes. By allowing Halliburton to quarterback the transition attack, they can free up Fox to play more off the ball, and receive outlet passes when he’s already at full speed.
If you look at some of the other players the Kings signed/retained, a lot of them seem to have the skills and/or physical attributes to be complimentary pieces in a high-octane transition attack. Woodard had the best mix of athleticism and measurables in the draft. Jamhi’us Ramsey was excellent in transition at TT (76th percentile). GR3 was tied for 12th in PPP (NBA.com) last season for players that ended at least 100 possessions in transition. Holmes, Jefferies and Whiteside were super efficient (on super small sample sizes) in transition as well. Then, obviously, they still have Bjelly and Buddy who are excellent spot up shooters on the move.
Now I’m sure some may be thinking to themselves “yeah but we still have Lose Alton!”. Obviously, that is a concern, but I think the level of concern is a bit overblown. We know that Walton’s Laker teams all played fast, so it’s not like he’s hellbent on implementing a more methodical approach on offense. We also know that Luke/McNair brought Gentry in after Igor left. Why would they bring in an assistant coach who’s name is basically synonymous with fast-paced offense, if the goal was to not play fast?
The key will be (to me at least) is if they’ve added/retained enough players who can be disruptive enough generate a high volume of transition opportunities.
I don’t think Walton’s coaching issues are limited to pace.
My comment was not intended to be a comprehensive assessment of Walton’s coaching ability.
But “this is much more detailed” = total and complete assessment of all things discussed! 😉
I agree. Didn’t we also play slow in DJ’s first year coaching with Z-bo in the line up? Maybe it’s the same thing happening here to some extent. Not saying Luke is great coach or anything but with Gentry as the number 2, I think he’ll get out of the way.
Joerger had the team that VD slapped together, and with Z-Bo at that stage of his career, running just wasn’t an option.
Lose Walton took a team with speedsters and thought, “what we need is more Buddy initiating the offense.”
You play to the strengths of your roster, as opposed to imposing your own “philosophy” on it. I hope McNair tells Walton to not even talk to the players, especially the rookies.
Honestly I think that Igor had a lot of influence over the offensive system last season. His offensive philosophy is all about versatility. The Kings just didn’t have a ton of smart playmakers, and we saw the results. I think Gentry’s philosophy is a much better fit with the players on this roster. I keep coming back to the word “attack.” I just think they’re going to try to be relentless by being disruptive on defense, focusing on getting shots at the rim, and letting Buddy bomb from three.
Thought of some early Jerryisms for this kid. In addition to “Flash Bros” (Fox and Hali) mentioned above…
When Tyrese is playing well, Doug or whoever can say:
“Somewhere Dick Cheney is smiling… because Haliburton’s stock is ON THE RISE!”
LOL, I was thinking about Dick Cheney puns as well.
Haliburton shoots buddy in the back.
Oh wait…. nevermind.
“Haliburton must be bribing officials … he is doing whatever he wants out there!”
“Haliburton is earning a no-bid contract!”
Off night: “Haliburton is leaking oil today, missing all night from the Deep Horizon.” (Bonus: Don’t worry though, Fox is covering up for him!)
Yeah it’s too bad Calbert Cheaney isn’t in the league anymore. The possibilities with those two playing together could be endless 😉
Solid pickup. I find it encouraging that he has been bulking up. He said he is about 185 now on his introductory press conference. And I found a good breakdown on why his shot works and is so consistent even though its unconventional, it’s a good watch if you have the time:
I hadn’t seen that, but it’s great news. A guy his height probably ought to be closer to 195-200 but if there’s one thing that I know, adding weight is easier than losing it. Hopefully adding muscle will make him more aggressive at the rim, he’s generally avoided contact thus far.
Let’s hope he has the kind of Giannis curve. Giannis came into the league hella skinny and was 2 inches shorter than what he is now. Many of these kids are still growing into their bodies.
Agreed. People project so much of a players potential based on their measurables at 19-20 as if players weighed the same the rest of their lives. Perhaps just vicarious thinking from grown men who wish that were true lol.
Very nice writeup Bryant. Well done.
I envision him as the ultimate glue guy. Unselfish, high IQ on both ends, great vision, high character. Sometimes having lots of stars on a team can emphasize individual talent over team performance. But Tyrese seems like he’ll fill the cracks like epoxy on wood and create a final product that’s greater than the sum of its parts. Really excited about this kid.
Great write-up and appreciate the videos embedded!
I appreciate anyone who is interested enough to watch them all!
I’m looking forward to those defensive instincts. It’s impressive that Haliburton has good steal and block #s and %s despite the lack of explosive athleticism or other worldly length.
Having a high IQ playmaker on offense will be so refreshing.
Great write up and and explains the potential for success of Tyrese and fit with Kings !