While the 2020 NBA Draft was filled with high-potential talents, it had the rare scenario of having no consensus top pick. That has only happened thrice over the last 20 drafts.
Lacking such a player doesn’t necessarily equate to lesser hype, though. In fact, it generates more excitement and curiosity, and meant that someone will likely drop, so general managers would really need to do their homework with more detail.
The Sacramento Kings owned the 11th pick in the recent draft, which, as a perennial lottery team, isn’t a high-enough spot since they have a lot of needs to address. It appeared that they’d end up gambling for another swingman shooter, but after a couple of surprise picks, they suddenly had the chance to grab heralded 6’5 combo guard, Tyrese Haliburton.
The former Iowa State standout was a match-up problem at the point guard position, boasting size, quickness, playmaking abilities, and active hands on defense. Analysts projected that he’ll go within the fifth and eighth selections, and some even argued he’s the most talented in the class. After all, he was Second Team All Big-12 last season, averaging all-around numbers 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.2 assists, and 2.5 steals per game on 50.4% shooting (41.9% from three).
The doubts that he may struggle fitting in as a back-up for De’Aron Fox was quickly washed away too. Haliburton was confident, armed, and ready to ball, so Kings head coach Luke Walton gave him enough opportunities to prove himself. In eight games this season, the 20-year-old is posting 12.1 points, 5.5 assists, and 1.3 steals per game off-the-bench while also shooting a pretty decent 52.2% from the floor.
Walton, of course, is pleased with his rookie. He recently shared what made him and the Kings front office a believer:
“All of the reports that our scouts and everyone, front office got on him was the intangibles that really make him a special player … I think as the game goes on and the pressure comes of the fourth quarter, it just heightens his skill set from a mental standpoint to just making plays. The later in the game, the more confidence he gets.”Luke Walton
Walton then proved his confidence by inserting the youngster into the starting lineup Sunday against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Kings were without Richaun Holmes and Haliburton stepped in to fill the small-ball lineup. He had 12 points, eight assists and made five of eight shots.
Haliburton is inside the top three among all rookies in points and assists per game, where he joins LaMelo Ball of the Charlotte Hornets and Payton Pritchard of the Boston Celtics. He’s also roaming around the top seven spots in total points, assists, and steals.
What separates Tyrese from those two, however, is these two factors: Ball is expected to produce as the third overall pick, and Pritchard is not expected to maintain his production once All-Star teammate Kemba Walker returns from injury, which is sometime this month.
The 4-6 Kings will be back in action Tuesday against the Indiana Pacers. Haliburton will have another chance to showcase and develop his skills as he’ll go up against dynamic guards Victor Oladipo and Malcolm Brogdon. Let’s see if he’s able to further the red-hot to his NBA career.