“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Tyrese Haliburton is a 20-year-old combo guard from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, who averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists and 5.9 rebounds in his sophomore season for the Iowa State Cyclones. He is expected to be selected among the top-10 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 2 overall (if the Golden State Warriors hang onto the pick). NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 8.
It’s funny (not funny ha-ha, but more like funny-hmm) that the player in this draft most reminiscent of Lonzo Ball isn’t his own younger brother, but is instead a quiet, steady floor general who only recently put himself in the NBA lottery conversation.
Much like Lonzo, Haliburton is a tall, rangy guard with exceptional court vision and a funky shooting stroke. Unlike Lonzo, however, Haliburton doesn’t come attached at the hip with an extremely loud media circus and a clunky brand rollout.
Haliburton truly blossomed during his sophomore year under Steve Prohm – a coach who knows a thing or two about developing steady floor generals. He doubled most of his counting stats from a solid freshman season, while also increasing his offensive efficiency. He shouldered an enormous burden for the Cyclones, but he delivered at nearly every turn.
Even though Haliburton is one of college basketball’s most natural playmakers, he can also create offensive opportunities for himself with a variety of in-and-out dribbles and herky-jerky hesitation moves. Even though nobody would confuse his shooting stroke for Ray Allen’s, Haliburton converted on 42% of his attempts from 3 on a high volume (5.6 attempts/game), including a scorching 70% from the corners.
Perhaps his greatest upside is on the defensive end, where Haliburton snagged 2.5 steals a game thanks in large part to his long wingspan (nearly 6-8) and his excellent anticipation skills. He projects as the ideal switch-everything wing defender along the perimeter. Even though he’s quite skinny at this stage of his development, he isn’t afraid to bang with bigger, heavier players on the boards. He is an incredible transition threat, given his predilection for jumping passing lanes and his ability to finish at the rim (nearly 69% at the tin, via Synergy).
Haliburton is an extremely intelligent, well-rounded player who can adeptly serve as a team’s point guard and as an off-ball secondary playmaking threat. He fits in any lineup on any roster.
On a scale from 1-10, Haliburton’s basketball IQ and versatility rate at a 9.
Does that shooting motion bother you?
If not, then by all means, draft Haliburton and don’t give it a second thought. The rest of his skills put him in the conversation with the other top players in this class. But if you’re among the scouts who think that Haliburton’s stroke is a severe limitation, you might have to adjust your expectations for his ceiling.
Much like Lonzo, Haliburton knocks it down far more often than not when his feet are set and he has enough time to get into his motion. That’s why his shooting stats in the corners are so eye-popping. The trouble comes when Haliburton is looking to create his own shot off the dribble – perhaps the single-most important skill that separates All-Star perimeter players from secondary role players.
Haliburton’s stroke starts low and takes an extra beat to make its way to its release point. It also isn’t identical from shot to shot. It contributes to the biggest hole in his game, where he tallied only 0.68 points per dribble jump shot – 35th percentile. If he can’t improve on that number, his remarkable pick-and-roll skills take a hit, as teams will simply play underneath the screen and dare him to knock down jumpers.
Haliburton’s so-so athleticism and thin frame (175 pounds soaking wet) weren’t hindrances at the college level, but he might have trouble getting to his spots against professional adults.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Haliburton’s time-consuming shooting motion rates at an 8.5.
Even though Haliburton put together one of the great résumés in the history of Wisconsin high school basketball, he didn’t catch the eyes of scouting services for the same reasons he wasn’t on draft boards until recently (skinny, not a lot of bounce, etc.). The three-star recruit made a wise choice by hooking up with Prohm and Iowa State, who had recently coached current Denver Nugget Monte Morris during the season in which he posted an NCAA-record 5.2-1 assist/turnover ratio.
Haliburton showed flashes his freshman year of the player he would become as a sophomore, including a 17-assist showing in a blowout win over Southern. He truly burst onto the scene during the 2019 FIBA Under-19s, where he averaged nearly 7 assists per game, hit 69% of his shot attempts and made the all-tournament team.
He used that as the launching pad into his excellent sophomore campaign, where he earned All-Big-12 second team honors despite a broken wrist that cut his season short in February.
Haliburton doesn’t carry himself as an anointed superstar, because he has never received that kind of attention until very recently. He still carries himself as if he is the 3-star recruit who has to earn playing time, which will serve him well no matter where he gets drafted.
On a scale from 1-10, Haliburton’s pre-NBA career rates at an 8.5.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Much like Killian Hayes, Haliburton possesses a diverse array of skills that can ingratiate himself with any NBA roster.
Rumor has it the Golden State Warriors are high on Haliburton, whose game complements the Curry/Klay backcourt better than any 2020 prospect with the possible exception of Hayes. Some scouts think No. 2 would be a reach for a prospect with a potentially unworkable shooting motion and unremarkable athleticism – and it would be – but Haliburton’s game could fit nicely into that Shaun Livingston-sized hole on the Warriors’ roster.
NBADraft.net has Haliburton slotted at No. 8 to the Knicks, who have been in need of a legitimate point guard since the end of Linsanity. Haliburton isn’t the cleanest fit alongside RJ Barrett, but the Knicks just need talent and ball-handlers to jump-start the monumental rebuild Leon Rose and company have ahead of them.
Haliburton doesn’t exactly fit a need for the Atlanta Hawks, but Travis Schlenk’s attempt to build Golden State East could benefit from another savvy playmaker to slot alongside Trae Young. Plus, Haliburton’s defensive upside makes him exactly the kind of backcourt mate one would seek to pair with Young.
On a scale from 1-10, Haliburton’s situational independence rates at an 8. His best chance for NBA stardom has him going to a squad with a respected shooting coach who can help Haliburton speed up his release.