How many rookies have panned out for Sacramento in the last decade? How many are still in the league? Sacramento's draft crops over the years have been barren. The inability of a small-market team like Sacramento to cash in through the draft plays a glaring role in holding the NBA's longest playoff drought. So when a prospect like Tyrese Haliburton is available at 12, a reality that didn't seem real throughout the draft process, you can't help but gush about the future.
The key with Haliburton? He's already exhibiting brilliant qualities on both ends of the floor just three games into the regular season. Sunday's game against the Phoenix Suns served as an explicit example, where the rookie finished with 15 points (5-7 FG, 3-4 3P), six assists and one rebound in 27 minutes.
Despite the loss, Haliburton's play left me exultant, so I watched the tape to detail his performance. Let's dive in!
This play commences with Buddy Hield getting Deandre Ayton to switch onto him. Chris Paul situates himself to offer Ayton help, but that provides Haliburton with extra room on the wing. Buddy attacks and makes the pass.
Hali's hesitation freezes Jae Crowder as Mikal Bridges and Paul gravitate to Haliburton, giving Hali enough time to deliver a crisp bounce pass to CoJo, who converts. I've picked up a theme: He's always one play ahead.
This possession immediately follows the previous clip. Hali goes under on the dribble hand-off screen but stays attached, forcing Bridges to reset. Bridges drives left on the iso, Hali maintains positioning and gives up no room. He finishes the play with a great contest.
This clip succeeds the previous one. It's a rushed pull-up three from Buddy, but the ball bounces in favor of Hali. Hali surveys the floor and delivers a swerving pass right in Hield's shooting pocket for the bucket.
Three straight good possessions from the rook, ending in six points for Sacramento and none for Phoenix.
I want to highlight Hali's closeout speed here. Devin Booker curls inside after the DHO, draws the entire population of Sacramento and delivers a no-look pass to the corner. Hali takes only one second to recover (peep the shot clock). However, better offense prevailed as Bridges converts.
Nemanja Bjelica fades away as Hali and Bagley get to work. The DHO flows into a mid-range pick-and-pop jumper as Bagley gets a simple look. It helps that Frank Kaminsky is the defender because he was slow to recover, but I like the potential of a Hali-Bagley 1-2 game. Bagley needs easy looks like this to knock down, and Haliburton has displayed the passing chops to arrange that.
Phoenix runs multiple DHOs to get Booker the ball on an iso. Sacramento switches on each one, so it's Hali vs. Book. Haliburton smartly goes over the screen this time, giving Booker no room to pull up until the very last crossover. Fortunately for Sacramento, Hassan Whiteside came from the weak side to block the shot.
This is simply beautiful. As I said, he's always one play ahead. Sacramento breaks out in transition, but reset after an untidy bounce pass by Haliburton. The ball movement is exquisite; Haliburton draws two defenders on the contest, and instead, he rises up for the pass to Whiteside down low. Easy points.
This is similar to the first clip I showed, but with different personnel. Whiteside can't establish position down low, but Fox spots Hali just like Buddy did earlier. This time, though, Hali needs to shoot this one (peep shot clock). It's no problem; He drills it over the contest.
This play starts off jammed and ugly, but it doesn't finish that way.
Hali rejects the Whiteside screen (props to Bridges' defense), gets the step on Bridges after Bridges backed into the screen and floats a pretty one over Ayton's out-stretched arms. Haliburton's ability to create for himself hasn't gleamed in the same way as his other traits so far, but he possesses the tools to do so.
A rare blemish from the game: a Hali airball.
The initial stagger screen for Hield inverts to a double-drag for Hali, who's able to gain a good look curling off the screens. The result, however, left much to be desired. If Haliburton can attach a pull-up jumper to his already venerable arsenal, oh boy.
This honestly might've been his best play. He sets the back screen to switch Bagley onto Booker, but Booker shuts down the Bagley iso (yeah, quite concerning).
Bagley resets to Hali on the wing, who attacks the rim late in the shot clock and somehow finishes in traffic.
Again, he's always one play ahead. His off-ball movement leads to a DHO with Whiteside. Rumor has it that Galloway is still spinning. Barnes slightly fades, then comes back in; Hali attacks the space cleared by Barnes, draws in Barnes' defender and boom, easy dump pass for two.
Haliburton's play is alleviating the pain of letting an asset like Bogdan Bogdanovic walk for zilch. If Bogi remained in Sacramento, the backcourt minutes would be compressed, and it's likely that Haliburton wouldn't be receiving the minutes he's currently getting -- and earning.
Keep on shining, rook. You've already got an entire city behind you.