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Season Review: Tyrese Haliburton

Tyrese Haliburton's rookie year showed that the Kings may have finally found a second star.

When Tyrese Haliburton fell to the Sacramento Kings at #12 in the 2020 NBA Draft, it was widely considered the steal of the draft.  Haliburton had been projected to go in the top-5, and here he was slipping all the way to Sacramento near the end of the lottery.

Kings fans were excited, but this isn't the first time a supposed top prospect had fallen to the Kings and been declared a steal.  Over the years, we've seen players like Thomas Robinson or Ben McLemore arrive with big expectations and fail to meet them.

So far, that hasn't been the case with Tyrese Haliburton.  Haliburton hit the ground running, posting one of the most efficient rookie performances in Sacramento Kings history.  Haliburton's 13 points, 5.3 assists and 3.0 rebounds aren't the stuff of legends, but it was remarkable how comfortable he looked on the floor as a rookie, with skills and instincts of a player with far more experience.

One of the biggest question marks coming into the league was if Haliburton's shot would translate to the NBA.  He had been very efficient at Iowa St., shooting almost 43% from beyond the arc in his two seasons, but his shot was a little awkward looking and there were thoughts that he wouldn't be able to get it off against NBA defenses.  That question was quickly answered as Haliburton started off the year on a shooting tear, making 52.1% of his threes over his first 10 games.

He finished the season shooting 40.9% from three, the highest qualified mark for a drafted Kings rookie in history.  His 121 made threes are second only to Bogdan Bogdanovic, who was 5 years older when he made his NBA debut (and also played 20 more games).  Haliburton's overall FG% of 47.2% was the 3rd highest for a rookie guard in Sacramento history, behind only Vinny Del Negro (47.5%) and Kenny Smith (47.7%).  LaMelo Ball (43.6%) and Anthony Edwards (41.7%), the two other rookies this season in consideration for the Rookie of the Year award, were far less efficient.

Shooting wasn't the only thing Haliburton did well.  The one area widely considered to be his strength coming into the draft was his playmaking ability.  In his sophomore year at Iowa St. he averaged 6.5 assists with a 2.3:1 assist to turnover ratio.  As a rookie for the Kings, he averaged 5.3 assists and had an even better 3.3:1 assist to turnover ratio.  Only LaMelo Ball had more total assists as rookie this season, but he also had 60 more turnovers.

Haliburton is an instinctual passer, often passing up opportunities for himself to find an even better one for a teammate, or even making a pass that he knows sets up a better long term play. On more than one occasion this season, Haliburton would make a pass only to instantly point to another teammate, telling the player who he just passed to where the ball needed to go.  He's also got a little bit of flair to his game, especially favoring no-look passes on the fast break.

Defensively, Haliburton's best work comes off the ball.  Much like his instincts in knowing where the ball should go on offense, he also has a feel for where the opposing team is going to be moving the ball and sets himself up to pick off passes like an NFL corner back.

While Haliburton had an excellent year and was perhaps the highlight of Sacramento's season, that doesn't mean he doesn't have parts of his game that need improvement.  For one, he needs to get stronger, but so do most rookies.  But getting stronger for Haliburton will allow him to compete better in man-on-man defense as well as be more aggressive in attacking the basket, which is another area he will need to focus on.  Despite being a great free throw shooter, Haliburton barely got to the line at all, only averaging one free throw attempt per game.  This wasn't a particular strength for him in college either.

To take the next step, he'll also have to become more assertive in looking for his own shot and also creating his own looks.  As the season wore on and teams got more scouting information on Haliburton, he wasn't left nearly as open by opposing teams.  Most of Haliburton's scoring came on catch and shoot threes or fast break scores.  With teams guarding him more closely and his propensity for sharing the ball, there were times when he was too passive.  Eventually, he'll have to become a more focal point of the offense to be a more complementary piece to De'Aaron Fox.

Still, the improvements that Haliburton needs to make aren't huge.  He was a remarkably polished rookie, and his fundamentals are solid.  There's no doubt in my mind that he's going to be a very good player for years to come.  He's the type of player who elevates the team around him.  Even when he suffered the knee injury that knocked him out for the last few weeks of the season, he was the team's biggest cheerleader, up off the bench and the first to react to any big moment. He's a team player, on and off the court.

While this season may have been disappointing overall, the prospect of watching a Fox/Haliburton backcourt for years to come makes it a little easier to see a road where the Kings can get back to relevance sooner rather than later.

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May 27, 2021 12:33 pm

I would like to place an order for a full season of the Fox / Haliburton backcourt, please.

May 27, 2021 10:12 pm
Reply to  RobHessing

Walton may have other thought on that.

May 28, 2021 9:55 am
Reply to  RobHessing

You may have to wait a couple years for that after we sign Alec Burks to a $80M deal this offseason.

May 27, 2021 12:47 pm

Possibly my favorite King since the turn of the millennium.

May 27, 2021 12:51 pm

One of the few things that make me optimistic about the future.

I love players with a high BBIQ. We need more of those!

May 27, 2021 1:11 pm

Ain’t a team in the league that doesn’t wish they had him.

May 27, 2021 1:13 pm

He’s just so much fun to watch play. Him and Fox were definitely a big part of what kept me interested this season.

Nostradumbass 18
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May 27, 2021 1:14 pm

The only real bright spot this whole season. Let’s hope he excels even more next year.

May 27, 2021 1:31 pm

Monte’s first move was a home run. Can’t wait to watch this dude improve.

May 27, 2021 1:43 pm

Haliburton is just the best kind of basketball player. Hard worker, highly skilled, high BBIQ, elevates his teammates, unselfish, seems like his head is on straight.

May 27, 2021 2:18 pm

Tyrese Haliburton is really good

May 27, 2021 2:18 pm

That boy good.

May 27, 2021 3:12 pm
Reply to  Kingsguru21

comment image

Nostradumbass 18
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May 27, 2021 4:34 pm

One of those guys is ElRon, right?

May 27, 2021 5:08 pm
Reply to  Klam

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May 27, 2021 6:15 pm

The fact that one person here got my reference makes me happy. 🙂

May 27, 2021 2:24 pm

Mcnair could potentially draft another “Haliburton” type this upcoming draft. Josh Giddey could possibly be the next best wing initiator behind Cunningham.

May 27, 2021 3:02 pm
Reply to  RAP87

Kings wind the lotto this year and get the number one pick. No reason not to take Cade.

May 27, 2021 3:13 pm
Reply to  Malrock

Of course, there was no reason not to take Doncic either, sooooo…..

Yes, I know this is a different FO.

May 27, 2021 2:56 pm

4 straight solid reviews of kings players. I predict a precipitous drop off from here on out.

May 27, 2021 4:20 pm
Reply to  aplumley

Maybe after Fox’s evaluation…

May 27, 2021 10:15 pm
Reply to  BabalooMagoo

Difficult evaluation with Fox – I think it really depends on what you value.
I see that being a very polarizing review.

May 28, 2021 8:33 am
Reply to  TheBaker

I predict a lot of arguing over a very slight distinction.

May 27, 2021 4:21 pm

Excellent rookie campaign. What can’t this kid do? I give him an A.

Nostradumbass 21
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May 27, 2021 4:38 pm

He made a play in the middle of the season where he was dribbling somewhat near the baseline, looked at a teammate as if he was going to pass, such that his defender jumped in the air reacting to the pass, and then he just casually dribbled to the basket for a dunk.

Oh, here it is.

I love crafty players.

May 27, 2021 4:46 pm

He’s already rocketed into the position of my favorite player on the team. Now hopefully he can step up and fulfill the role of team leader that the club is severely lacking.

May 27, 2021 5:10 pm

If we retain Harkless..(Or Hield)

Should Tyrese be coming off the bench like during late-season game

PG: Fox
SG: Hield
PF: Barnes


PG: Fox
SG: Tyrese
SF: Hield
PF: Barnes

would be better ?

p.s. (I am not counting the addition of Kuminga / Cade right now)

May 27, 2021 5:52 pm

Haliburton is starting.

Buddy (hope he’s traded)
Holmes or whoever is signed in Holmes’ place.

May 27, 2021 10:18 pm
Reply to  TheGrantNapear

Team may have a drastically different look heading into training camp…

May 27, 2021 10:54 pm
Reply to  TheBaker

Or not…

May 28, 2021 8:41 am

Haliburton is one of the top 2 players on this team and potentially the best when it comes to bringing the skills that make his teammates better. Whether he’s starting or coming off the bench, he should be getting as many minutes as anyone.

May 28, 2021 5:15 pm

I really can’t say enough good things about him as a person and player. His understanding of the game and instincts are superb. Throw in being a consummate professional and teammate and we have a good thing going here. Really excited for his future.

May 28, 2021 7:43 pm

I would say Hali is the only star. I love high BBIQ players and guys who have drive to win as much as anyone but he did something this year that Fox hasn’t done ever…made his teammates better.

Also Hali has heart and is also a winner and has that driver to just compete and win no matter what.

Bottom line guy was a rookie and was more of a leader than anyone we have seen here in a long ass time.

May 29, 2021 8:49 am

It’s a weird thing to say but upon reflection I actually think the season went rather well (with the only real downside being us not tanking at the end to get better lottery odds).

Of course we all would have wanted to win the title but if you think realistically our best outcome was probably the 8th seed with Bogi, no cap flexibility and getting swept in round 1. Going into the draft I really thought we were garbage and we turned out to have made an actual step forward.

In the end we ended up with a guy in Hali that can really move the needle. We did not have that before the draft. Get rid of Luke and get us another starter in the draft (tough task) and I’ll be cautiously optimistic about things. No reason we can’t follow the path of Memphis.

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