Tyrese Haliburton is still only 23 years old, yet he might already be the best point guard in the NBA today.
After spending the offseason as Team USA’s top reserve in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, Haliburton has found another level this season. He is the main reason why the Indiana Pacers are headed to the In-Season Tournament (IST) finals in Las Vegas and is finally becoming a household name among casual fans.
Over the past month, the Pacers swept all four of their group stage games in the IST to advance to the quarterfinals where they met the current first place team in the East, the Boston Celtics. Haliburton, unfazed by the stature of his opponents and the postseason-esque atmosphere, used a strong second half to lead Indiana to a 122-112 win over the Celtics.
What made his performance even more noteworthy was that he managed to put together his first career triple double–26 points, 10 rebounds, and 13 assists–and had a grand total of zero turnovers against arguably the league’s top defensive backcourt of Jrue Holiday and Derrick White.
Haliburton’s outstanding play carried over to their IST East Semifinal match where they faced the Milwaukee Bucks. This Bucks team entered the match with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and their seven-time NBA All-Star point guard Damian Lillard offered Haliburton another primetime match-up.
Once again, the 12th overall pick of the 2020 NBA Draft was unfazed. He put up another gaudy statline versus Milwaukee with 27 points, seven rebounds, 15 assists, and a block which he punctuated with his second consecutive zero-turnover game.
He outplayed Lillard who had 24 points, four three-pointers, seven rebounds, seven assists, a steal, a block, and three turnovers and even borrowed the NBA 75th Anniversary Team member’s signature celebration after hitting a crucial three-pointer down the stretch.
The efforts of Haliubrton allowed the Pacers to pull off a 128-119 win over the Bucks that booked them a spot in the first-ever IST Finals where they are going to face LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers.
The play of Haliburton has the aptly-named Pacers leading the league in advanced offensive categories such as pace and their up-and-down brand of basketball should give the veteran Lakers a run for their money in the finals.
Indiana also leads the NBA in other advanced statistics such as offensive rating, assist-to-turnover ratio, true shooting percentage, and effective field goal percentage in addition to traditional metrics such as points, two-point percentage, and assists per game. These numbers can all be attributed to Haliburton and this team’s success in the IST–and beyond–has his fingerprints all over them.
The 6’5 Haliburton is also having a spectacular year in terms of individual statistics. His 11.9 assists per game are a career-best and currently lead the league while his scoring numbers have also hit new highs. His field goal (52.1%), three-point (44.7%), and free throw (88.1%) percentages have all improved which has led to the highest scoring average (26.9) over his four-year career so far. A second NBA All-Star game appearance is practically guaranteed for him this year and many more should be in store for him in the coming seasons.
With the way that Haliubrton and the rest of this Pacers group has been playing, it will be far from an upset if they do come out on top of the IST. They have a combination of visual appeal and efficient play which is a rarity in all of basketball.
Moving forward from this inaugural tourney, they are currently sixth in the East standings with a 12-8 record. However, they are only three games behind the incumbent top seed Boston and it would not come as a surprise if they use the momentum from the IST as a springboard to move up the ranks.
Haliburton is now firmly on the map as a superstar and the future of these run-and-gun Pacers, regardless of the outcome of the finale versus Los Angeles, is definitely a bright one that is worth watching out for.