The 2020 NBA Finals matchup between the Lakers and Heat is set to begin Wednesday night, and the fast-approaching NBA Draft is officially less than two months away from altering the trajectory of the handful of teams who missed out on the postseason festivities.
The San Antonio Spurs became one of those unfortunate few who missed out on the playoff action when they failed to qualify for the first time in 23 years, but whoever they select come November 18 just might help them rejoin the ranks of the title-contending hopefuls.
In a class full of role-players, Tyrese Haliburton has set himself apart as a premium passing talent. And though a left wrist fracture put a premature end to his breakout sophomore campaign, let’s take a look at what the Iowa State point guard might bring to a crowded Silver and Black backcourt.
Tyrese Haliburton | Iowa State | Sophomore | Point Guard
Weight: 175 lbs
Stats (22 GP)
Per Game: 15.2 PPG/5.9 RPG/6.5 APG/2.5 SPG/0.7 BPG
Per 36: 14.9 PPG/5.8 RPG/6.3 APG/2.4 SPG/0.7 BPG
Shooting Splits: .504 FG%/.419 3P%/.822 FT
Five months from celebrating his twenty-first birthday, Tyrese Haliburton is one of the older lottery prospects in the 2020 Draft Class. Regardless, the sophomore point guard out of Iowa State University is one of the smartest and most NBA ready players at his position. And though there are some questions as to how high his ceiling might be, Haliburton projects as a positive day-one contributor for whichever franchise selects him this November.
A quick decision-maker with elite court vision, Haliburton is one of the best distributors entering the league. Skip, lob, swing, and pocket passes are all part of his polished live-dribble repertoire, and he is particularly dangerous as a pick-and-roll facilitator. While Tyrese isn’t as aggressive operating out of half-court sets, the six-five floor general is most confident and creative when pushing the pace in transition, manipulating the defense with his eyes. However, it’s worth noting a healthy share of his turnovers came in the air, and he should limit leaving the ground unnecessarily to pass the ball.
Although an undoubtedly talented passer, Haliburton isn’t much of a threat to create for himself. Limited by relatively average ball-handling, the stringy guard rarely displayed many advanced moves, and he isn’t someone who looks to put combinations dribbles together to shake his man. Instead, Haliburton mostly relies on hesitations and ball, body, and head fakes to create space. Tyrese took care of the ball on a majority of his offensive possessions but tended to pick up his dribble or become sloppy when closely pressured. Ultimately, it will be up to front offices and coaching staffs to determine whether or not to bestow him with lead guard duties or employ him as a secondary initiator.
As far as scoring the ball, Haliburton is more likely to look for a teammate than attack. Despite his slight frame, the 175-pound guard showed proficiency finishing at the rim, though he took a surprisingly low volume of attempts from this range. A fluid athlete with a solid first step, long strides, sneaky pop, and a feathery-soft touch, Tyrese utilized change of pace with exceptional body control to convert around the basket, and a package of floaters and runners helped keep defenders guessing. Nevertheless, he only averaged 2.2 free throws per 40 minutes, and embracing contact instead of altering mid-flight is an area where he must improve.
While some scouts question Haliburton’s long-distance jumper, I buy into it translating in the NBA. Strange foot placement, unorthodox form, and a face-level release aside, his set shooting motion is quick, consistent, and Haliburton proved to be an elite stand-still shooter with legitimate range throughout his college career (42.6% on 237 3PA). That being said, his mechanics really begin to break down when shooting off the dribble. Here we see him alter between shooting on the way up and on the way down, and though he likely has a bit of functionality shooting off screens, I’m not sure Haliburton will ever become a reliable motion shooter.
Haliburton is one of the more underrated defenders in the 2020 Draft Class, and while his spindly build doesn’t allow for much switchability, his outstanding team defense would be a welcome addition to San Antonio’s versatile collection of young stoppers. He showed sound defensive awareness and instincts as a help-side defender in the NCAA, always communicating with teammates and routinely making correct rotations. He seldom ball-watched and was continuously engaged even when not directly involved in the action.
I would categorize Tyrese as more of a disciplined risk-taker than an all-out gambler, but that certainly didn’t stop him from being a defensive playmaker and menace in the passing lanes. His wingspan is listed at six-seven-and-a-half on the official NBA website, though it has been rumored to be as long as seven feet, and the latter wouldn’t shock me considering how often he got his hands on the ball. Haliburton averaged 2.5 steals and nearly one block per game as a sophomore. He frequently turned defense into offensive opportunities, though sometimes closed out too hard, exposing driving lanes. And while he won’t be a rim-protector in the NBA, he may be able to slide over from the weak-side to disrupt shots at the rim with his length.
Despite being an instrumental glue-guy as a team defender, Haliburton will probably be limited as an isolation defender. He is much too thin to effectively switch onto threes, fours, and fives, and heavier ones and twos won’t have much trouble displacing him on drives. The sophomore guard has swift feet and fluid hips, though he has a tendency to play upright, leaving himself susceptible to being caught off-balance. Additionally, Tyrese has demonstrated a bad habit of hopping rather than sliding with his man, and simple ball fakes can get him to leave his feet. He should also look to improve his footwork and positioning, especially when beat off the dribble, as he regularly takes odd angles when recovering.
Tyrese Haliburton should provide an immediate boost to any defense, but for all his strengths, there are a few weaknesses he must shore up to become more impactful on this end. Pick-and-roll defense is still a major flaw of his up to this point, and his previously noted slenderness made it easier for him to be hampered by screens. And once faced with the screen, he didn’t do the best job of fighting through the contact to get back into the play. Like Dejounte Murray, his body type isn’t conducive to packing on muscle, so becoming better at feeling and navigating screens should be a top priority.
To check out more potential 2020 draft targets, click here.