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Tyrese Haliburton will face new challenges in his second season

Haliburton will be taken out of his comfort zones more often this season now that there is a year's worth of his game on tape.

Tyrese Haliburton's name was expected to be called early on the night of November 18th, 2020. It seemed like nearly everywhere you looked the Iowa State sophomore was being mocked between the sixth and eighth picks, if not earlier.

The Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, and New York Knicks were lined up from six to eight and I'd bet each team wishes they'd thought differently that night. A few of the organizations in the top five probably can relate.

There were notable question marks attached to Haliburton, but he has forced second opinions on many of those after his rookie outbreak.

Some were skeptical of his shooting form translating at the NBA level. Those skeptics were swiftly silenced as he converted 40.9 percent of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game, the third-highest percentage of all rookies.

You can drop the forget the "for a rookie" asterisk. 40.9 percent placed Haliburton in the top-20 of all NBA players who attempted five or more threes a night.

A stellar feel for the game, ability to set up his teammates, and catch-and-shoot were well-documented traits in his draft profile. Struggling to shoot off the bounce and create space for himself were concerns commonly found in the same profiles.

45 percent of his NBA field-goal attempts were pull-up jumpers, per NBA tracking, and his effective field goal percentage was an impressive 50.7 percent on said shots. So much for that expectation. Just look at these dribble moves and his ability to create space.

While Haliburton was expected to outperform his draft position from the night he became a member of the Sacramento Kings, the NBA still wasn't prepared for his capabilities.

Now, after a year of proven ability and shown tendencies, Tyrese Haliburton's name should be listed right after De'Aaron Fox's on opposing team's scouting reports when they head into Golden 1 Center. This increased level of awareness and understanding from the opposition is a fairly common occurrence for NBA sophomores, but Haliburton benefited from uncertainties more than most in his rookie campaign.

Sacramento's stellar selection attempted 296 threes last season. According to NBA.com, 66.9 percent (198) of those were classified as "wide-open" attempts, meaning that there were no defenders within six feet.

32.1 percent (95) of his attempts from beyond the arc were "open", or taken with a defender between four and six feet away.

That leaves two attempts out of 296 from beyond the arc where a defender was within four feet of Haliburton when he released a three. Two! An absurd outlier of less than one percent of the time. Let's put that number of less than one percent in perspective.

Of the aforementioned grouping of top-20 three-point shooters (min. five 3PA/G), only two of them had a defender with four feet on less than ten percent of their attempts. Joe Ingles with 8.4 percent (34/406) and Mike Conley with 6.9 percent (23/334 - both Jazz players likely due to Utah's stellar ball movement. Again, this was the case for Haliburton less than one percent of the time.

There is no world where Tyrese Haliburton is left wide-open from three to that same extent this season. You'd have to think that "close out hard" is bolded next to his name on the scouting report paired with his 40.9 percent conversion rate from three the year prior.

Also, his floater should be well documented at this point and catch fewer opponents off guard. Those are the two key strengths to be conscientious of when defending the 21-year-old King, while not forgetting his pass-first preference and ability.

The goal of opposing defenses this season will be to make Tyrese Haliburton uncomfortable as often as possible. Limiting the two mentioned preferences will aid in doing that, and pressuring his handle has proven to bother Tyrese as well.

Luke Walton has stated that he plans to stagger Haliburton and De'Aaron Fox, in order to keep one primary initiator on the floor for a majority of the game. When Haliburton is given those primary responsibilities, teams could look to pick him up full court this season, blitz or hedge the pick-and-roll, and have off-ball defenders swipe at his drive attempts more often.

His awareness has proven to be ahead of his years, but the tightness of his dribble is still a question. Again, taking him out of his comfort zones will likely be an essential goal of opposing coaching staffs heading into matchups with Sacramento now that his preferences are more apparent.

As for the defensive end, Haliburton was expected to be a playmaker there and that was proven correct as evident by his 1.3 steals per night. His on-ball defense was borderline atrocious though, which was also somewhat expected, and teams would be smart to target the slender guard.

Letting him hide off-ball and wreak havoc as a free safety of sorts is a mistake. If Sacramento continues to lazily switch ball screens, then directly involving Haliburton in the action could become more commonplace.

None of this is a knock on Tyrese Haliburton in any way. The fact that he greatly outperformed expectations to the point where he caught the NBA off-guard is ridiculously impressive. It's just that if the idea is there's a future All-Star somewhere in there, Haliburton is going to have to prove he can remain productive while being a well-understood focal point of opposing game plans.

With a year of tape available to every NBA coaching staff and an offseason to digest it, the easy looks for Haliburton will be few and far between. There's no reason to doubt his ability to traverse this challenge, but year two should give the Sacramento Kings a better idea of the potential ceiling of Tyrese Haliburton.

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Kangz_Landing
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October 20, 2021 9:08 am

Hoping to see Tyrese draw more fouls as his IQ and craftiness are his biggest strengths and a little added weight to help him finish at the rim. I can see an average of 16-18 points per game and of course 6-7 assists with efficient percentages again. That’s a stellar 2nd season.

Last edited 11 months ago by Kangz_Landing
Kosta
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October 20, 2021 9:12 am

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RobHessing
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October 20, 2021 9:30 am
Reply to  Kosta

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catterj
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October 20, 2021 9:29 am

Luke Walton has stated that he plans to stagger Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox, in order to keep one primary initiator on the floor for a majority of the game. When Haliburton is given those primary responsibilities, teams could look to pick him up full court this season, blitz or hedge the pick-and-roll, and have off-ball defenders swipe at his drive attempts more often.

Tyrese has a good enough feel for the game to find the open man or scramble in some other way to help win the possession. Hedging the pick and roll will probably fail for the defense with Haliburton able to make a quick pass to the roller or popper. Thompson in particular seems to love to slip with his picks in the preseason and a hedge will be punished in those cases.

Looking at some clips of Haliburton’s made threes, a lot of his threes came off catch and shoots after dribble penetration by another guard, mostly Fox in those situations but also Buddy. Davis could serve the same function this year though Davis usually looks to score for himself. With Fox on the floor, a backup play on any possession should be Fox pick and roll to the rim and kick out to Tyrese on the right wing or either corner. He was above league average on 3’s in those areas and Fox collapsing some of the defenders should help.

Tyrese shot 29.5% on his threes that were “just open” – defender 4-6 feet away. That is the lowest on the team for someone with over 30 attempts. However there were only 1.6 attempts per game for Haliburton. If he can hit those at a greater rate that would be awesome.

andy_sims
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October 20, 2021 9:32 am

Good summary of Haliburton’s strengths and weaknesses, and areas where he could find tougher sledding this season. If he slumps a bit this year, it won’t worry me much, since he’s so damned smart, and not afraid of doing the work to round out his game.

If he does have extended struggles, the depth at guard will be even more helpful. If you’re not on that night, someone else can step up.

RikSmits
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October 20, 2021 9:42 am

I love high BBIQ players and I am confident that Tyrese will adjust to the approach of opposing defenses and will do fine on offense. He sometimes has the tendency to defer too much, though. He has to be a bit more aggressive.

My main concerns are on defense, though, and this observation is spot on:

His on-ball defense was borderline atrocious though, which was also somewhat expected, and teams would be smart to target the slender guard.

With all the talk about the Davion-effect, I think most teams will funnel their point of attack through Tyrese or go at Fox and set a pick against him. And they will likely also attack the offensive board.

I’d be surprised if we manage to crawl out of the bottom third of the league on defense.

andy_sims
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October 20, 2021 9:51 am
Reply to  RikSmits

Impossible as it seems, I’m not sure they even snuck their way into the bottom-third. I’m thinking they were behind at least one D-League team.

AmateurNerd
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October 20, 2021 2:47 pm
Reply to  RikSmits

Bottom third would be an improvement.

Sacto_J
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October 20, 2021 9:46 am

I think Tyrese will figure it out. He showed a knack for countering and adapting last season and I think with another year of off-season workouts and training under his belt he’ll have more than enough ammo to unload on scouting reports across the league.

1951
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October 20, 2021 9:49 am

Don’t rain on my opening day parade!

Wait, it’s actually raining on opening day!

andy_sims
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October 20, 2021 9:51 am
Reply to  1951

Okay, pipe down, Alanis.

1951
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October 20, 2021 10:03 am
Reply to  andy_sims

It’s like 10,000 guards, when all you need is a wing!

catterj
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October 20, 2021 10:06 am
Reply to  1951

It’s the gifted Doncic pick, that you just didn’t take

RikSmits
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October 20, 2021 10:52 am
Reply to  catterj

It’s like a traaaade, but two days too late.

Carl
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October 20, 2021 9:52 am

Luke Walton has stated that he plans to stagger Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox, in order to keep one primary initiator on the floor for a majority of the game.

Does this imply that Haliburton won’t be starting?

Last edited 11 months ago by Carl
1951
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October 20, 2021 10:03 am
Reply to  Carl

I don’t know. We should ask Bagley’s agent!

Carl
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October 20, 2021 10:31 am
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Kosta
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October 20, 2021 10:53 am
Reply to  Carl

That’s the father.

And now we know why he has no right hand.
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SexyNapear
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October 20, 2021 10:07 am

I worry a bit about his ability to create his own shot and the fact that his awkward launch angle means he needs a good deal of space to launch. But he’s super crafty. He’s always gonna be a great cog. Not sure if he ever becomes top echelon.

andy_sims
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October 20, 2021 10:31 am
Reply to  SexyNapear

My hope is that as he gets stronger, he’ll make less effort to avoid contact, and get to the stripe five or six times a game. It my not happen this year, but as well as he shoots, he’s got to start racking up the free throws.

Carl
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October 20, 2021 10:40 am
Reply to  SexyNapear

Certainly Tyrese’s first year was extremely encouraging. I suppose there are always questions about how much players can get better, and that’s no different for Haliburton. I’m encouraged by his intelligence, and though I’m sure most assistant coaches are well qualified, something about Tyrese being coached by Doug Christie makes me hopeful for his growth. They’re both rangy guys with high BBIQ and very good playmaking skills.

I think Tyrese is probably a better shooter and playmaker right now than Doug ever was, and Tyrese’s biggest weakness was Doug’s biggest strength. I don’t know what his ceiling is, but even if he’s not an All Star, having a guy who makes your team better when he’s on the floor, without necessarily compiling counting stats, is an underrated asset on any team.

Carl
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October 20, 2021 10:50 am
Reply to  Carl

And1 – if you look at Tyrese’s player comps on 538, it includes names like Jamal Murray, Mike Conley, Zach LaVine and Chauncey Billups (and some less encouraging names).

andy_sims
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October 20, 2021 10:58 am
Reply to  Carl

My top comp always ends up being Stalin, but I think that’s mostly because we share a birthday.

AmateurNerd
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October 20, 2021 2:48 pm
Reply to  andy_sims

You must have an impressive mustache.

Sacto_J
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October 20, 2021 2:56 pm
Reply to  Carl

Doug wasn’t asked or expected to be a playmaker or a shooter, necessarily, on a night to night basis. But when he was asked to do those things he did them well, even above average for short stretches. I remember a game they were without Bibby and Peja and Doug ended the contest with something like 30+ points on low volume shooting with like 7 assists and basically ran the team like a PG. I believe that was a playoff game that we ended up winning.
Tyrese def needs a little more on the defensive end. I think with Mitchell and DC on the team he’ll figure it out, add more tools to his belt and develop that solid all-around game like DC had.

Bbmuteman
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October 20, 2021 11:16 am
Reply to  SexyNapear

If Kevin Martin could succeed in the league, I’m not worried too much about Tyrese.

Bluejohn
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October 20, 2021 3:40 pm
Reply to  Bbmuteman

The great thing about the threads is there always (or maybe) a comment that is impossible to refute

Hozr
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October 20, 2021 12:08 pm
Reply to  SexyNapear

His shot mechanics remind me of Kevin Martin.

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