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Suns 2020 Draft Spotlight: Combo guard Tyrese Haliburton

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Tyrese Haliburton is one of the smartest players in this draft and would greatly benefit learning from Ricky Rubio and playing alongside Devin Booker. Will he be available at pick number 10?

NCAA Basketball: Battle 4 Atlantis-Iowa State at Alabama Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Here is part three of my draft series preview covering both fits for the Suns with pick number 10 and potential trade-back candidates. So far we’ve covered Devin Vassell, and Ty-Shon Alexander, now let’s dive into Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton.

Tyrese Haliburton is one of the most exciting passers in this class, and has a very unique set of skills that should make him a useful rotation player for years to come.

General Background

Position: Point Guard, off-guard

Measurables: 6’5”, 6’11” Wingspan (not confirmed)

Age: 20 years old on draft day

School: Iowa State

Role: High IQ glue guy, Secondary creator


Draft Range

Here’s where he’s going in the most recent mainstream mock drafts and big boards around the internet world.

  • ESPN: 7th (mock)
  • The Ringer: 6th (big board)
  • Bleacher Report: 9th (mock)
  • Tankathon: 5th (big board)
  • NBA Draft Net: 7th (mock)
  • CBS: 9th (mock)
  • Personal Suns-specific board: 5th

As you can see, he is mocked to go before Phoenix in many of these, but if a team selects Killian Hayes before him there’s a decent chance he drops to the 10th pick due to lack of lead guard demand in the top 10 going off the process of elimination. The odds are he probably goes before the 10th pick, but it isn’t out of the realm of possibility that he drops to them on draft night at all.


Shooting

This is an area of Haliburton’s game where nuance is important when discussing his shooting strengths and weaknesses. If you looked strictly at the basketball reference numbers and never saw him play you’d think by all accounts he’s an entirely elite and complete shooter. Well, you’d be wrong. Kind of. Here’s why.

Shooting Strengths: He is excellent off catch and shoot attempts from three point range, and has soft touch on floaters. He is a plus finisher when he gets to or near the rim. He is also an terrific free throw shooter which bodes well for his shooting projection.

Per Synergy, he finished in the 97th percentile in catch and shoot attempts, which is excellent. Literally. He knows what his strengths are and as long as he leans into them he shouldn’t have any efficiency issues in the NBA.

It’s important to note that there are some limitations that come with his shooting package.

Shooting Weaknesses: The area where he is almost a lost cause at this point is his off-the-dribble shooting, which in large part is hindered due to his funky, slow release. He shot a lowly 28% on field goals attempted off the dribble to put some context behind that initial statement.

Unfortunately I don’t think this is an issue that could be easily corrected due to his form, because his shot takes far too long to get off when he’s on the move, so that will be a limiting factor to his game. Is it the end of the world? No. Will it allow NBA teams to adjust their defensive game plan for him in a way that could hinder his offensive game? Yes, and it’s certainly something to monitor and take into consideration with his evaluation.

Additional shooting stats from his sophomore season (via Barttorvik):

  • Dunks: 7-8 (87.5%)
  • Close 2’s: 46-62 (74.2%)
  • Long 2’s: 26-60 (43.3%)
  • Free Throws: 37-45 (82.2%)
  • 3 Pointers: 52-124 (41.9%)
  • Free Throw Rate: (18.4%)

Passing

LaMelo Ball, Tyrese Haliburton and Killian Hayes are the three best passers in this draft class, and they’re all different types of passers which makes for a unique discourse when determining who the “best” is in that phase of the game.

Haliburton excels in transition and in the pick and roll game especially and makes some of the most visually satisfying passes you will ever see. He often times does something most guards are taught to never do: jump before passing. He always finds a way to make it work though, as he makes wild mid-air body adjustments to launch some of the most electrifying (and odd) passes you’ll see.

His assist to turnover ratio each year at Iowa State:

  • Freshman year: 125 assists to 28 turnovers.
  • Sophomore year: 142 assists to 61 turnovers.

His freshman season he had more blocks (30) than turnovers (28). I’m not concerned with the uptick in turnovers his sophomore year, as he played on a poor Iowa State team without a ton of spacing or creators, and he did attempt some very tough passes while he took on more of a lead role.


Defense

Hali is one of the smartest players in this entire draft, and that translates to his off-ball defense and rotations on that end. He plays the passing lanes well and covers a ton of ground with his length, making impactful plays as shown by his 2.5 steals and 0.7 blocks per game.

He’s a tremendous communicator on this end and it’s evident that he truly sees the floor well on both ends. Whether it’s directing teammates where to go, telling them where he’s going, stunting, tagging, sagging off shooters, etc., he just knows how to read situations before they present themselves which is very valuable.

The weakness of his on this end is his on-ball defense. Guarding smaller, quicker guards can be a challenge for him and he’s not strong enough to fight through screens and not quick enough to keep up with speedy ballhandlers. This is a bit worrisome for someone you want playing next to Devin Booker and primarily guarding opposing point guards. Overall I believe he’ll be a positive defender, but much like how his offensive game has limitations or drawbacks, there are similar concerns with facets of his defensive ability.


Self-Creation

The one thing Suns fans need to understand if they do wind up taking him is that he is not a pure scorer by any means and struggles mightily when it comes to getting to the rim or finishing through contact. The lack of a quick first step and his thin frame prevents him from both getting to and finishing around the rim and he doesn’t handle contact or physicality all that well.

To me he profiles similar as to what Lonzo Ball is role-wise for the Pelicans as a limited off-ball creator that thrives in transition and has plus length for his position.

He will never be a 20+ point per game scorer, and that’s fine. He has terrific shot selection, plays within himself by doing what he knows he can do well, which is an underrated skill to have for a young player. Self-awareness is vital for players to have when entering the NBA, but now it’ll come down to if the team that drafts him is as aware of what he is as he is.


Fit In Phoenix

It all comes down to what role Tyrese Haliburton will fill at the next level. If a team asks him to be their primary creator from day one, it could be a disaster. Luckily that would not be the case in Phoenix for a few reasons and it’s a major proponent as to why I’m a fan of the fit.

One being that they will employee Ricky Rubio for the next two seasons and that will give Haliburton some time to develop and put him in a role that doesn’t overwhelm him. The other reason being that Devin Booker can serve as a co-playmaker to take the burden off him.

His ability to learn from both Rubio and Booker and be used primarily as a second engine to the offense and connecting piece that serves as an “enhancer” is how he excels. Expecting him to be a dynamic scorer and handing him an offensive burden as the sole creator of an from day one would set him up for failure (depending on the situation), so I truly hope he ends up in a favorable situation for his sake if it’s not Phoenix.

Playing in an offense that is predicated off sharing the ball, moving without it and that incorporates tons of ball-movement would suit him well, especially with his ability to catch and shoot and sling the ball across the court like a madman.

My overall takeaway is that Phoenix is a good fit as long as they understand how to utilize him. I can’t think of a better mentor for him than Ricky Rubio, and he fits well next to Devin Booker looking at the big picture.

In-depth Haliburton Scouting Report via the Stepien.