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Will Tyrese Haliburton Take a Major Leap in Year Two?

Tyrese Haliburton was selected 12th overall in the 2020 NBA draft and made an instant positive impact on the Sacramento Kings and their rabid fan base. Tyrese was dubbed ‘steal of the draft’ by multiple expert analysts and was in the running for the NBA Rookie of the Year award the entire season.

Rookie Campaign

While appearing in 58 games, and starting 20, Haliburton averaged per game – 30 minutes, 13 points, 5.7 assists, 1.3 steals. His shooting percentages were quite respectable as well – 47% field goals, 41% three-point field goals, 86% free throws.

Tyrese earned himself a selection to the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie 1st team, as well as two NBA Rookie of the Month awards (January and February 2021).

Ahead I will outline my thoughts on the potential roles, a few questions, and my predictions for the sophomore sensation, Tyrese Haliburton!

Potential Roles

Starting shooting guard next to starting point guard De’Aaron Fox

This is the typical ‘next step’ that most fans and Kings media members talk about. Haliburton and De’Aaron Fox played well together when on the floor at the same time. It also just makes sense to start Haliburton, for team success and individual player growth.

The same questions linger though …. Will Buddy Hield be on the team to complain about not starting? Will he finally embrace the ‘sixth man’ role? A role that would most likely highlight his elite-level talents, while working on and ‘hiding’ his faults.

Though many folks say it and I mostly agree, it’s not who starts the game … it’s who finishes it. Well, actually, now that I type that out I have SOME beef with that statement.

Being that an NBA game is played to a certain time, not score, sometimes the beginning and middle of the game are more important than the end. Often, the Kings make nice late-game comebacks but are deterred from the win because of a lack of time to fully make that comeback (refer to The Big 3 and the Elam Ending for alternative end of game scenarios).

That means to me, sometimes, the first, second, and third quarters are more important than late in the fourth, if that makes sense.

Main ball-handler, initiator, to set up Fox

I think a ‘next level’ upgrade for the duo dubbed ‘SacTown 5-0’ of Fox and Haliburton would be to have Hali act as the main ball handler and initiator of offense.

That would help to set up Fox for scoring opportunities off of the ball. Dependent on how the Kings ‘run’ Fox off the ball, opposing defenses will have to scheme to make sure Fox doesn’t consistently torch them, while not playing his main point guard position. This would not only open up more opportunities for Fox but for other Kings players as well. The Kings coaching staff have a LOT of options going forward.

Less time as the main point guard will lead to will lead to less wear and tear, which will help Fox and the Kings immensely in game 83 and beyond …

Haliburton acts as ‘Floor General’ when Fox is on the bench

The Kings seem to NEED at least one of the ‘SacTown 5-0’ on the floor at all times. There will be times when matchups and hot lineups without Fox or Haliburton get some run, but that will not be the main formula for success.

Haliburton has shown flashes of elite-level point guard skills. He controls the pace well and is becoming known for his deceptively devious look-away assists to his Kings running mates. That, paired with his ability to score from ‘all three levels’ makes Tyrese a THREAT when he is the main ball handler, regardless of whether Fox is on the floor or resting.

Let’s Get Physical

Will Haliburton be able to take a physical leap in year two? Not only in regards to his body size and strength but also durability and endurance. Haliburton was sidelined at the end of the 2020-21 season with a leg injury. The reason the Kings decided to keep Tyrese out seems to have been more a ‘precautionary’ measure, rather than a long term, worrisome injury.

Many folks point to Tyrese being too thin, needing to put on weight, size, and strength to take the necessary next steps in the NBA. I think that will happen, over time, patiently, intelligently. Based on a long and short-term plan for optimal success.

Haliburton uses his light frame, change of pace, and deceptiveness to his advantage. If he was to get ‘Buddy thick’ that may improve some aspects of his game, but also hinder some others. Being patient with physical maturity, paired with elite-level NBA nutrition, training, and recovery … I think Tyrese will be fine in that category.

I am more concerned about his durability, and endurance, over an 82 game season, and playoff push. Not because of anything necessarily regarding him personally, but just the general grind of a full NBA season, year after year. That heated term ‘load management’ will be CRUCIAL to the short and long-term success of Tyrese Haliburton and therefore, the Sacramento Kings.

One of the most important aspects to success in the NBA isn’t just having great players, but being able to keep them on the floor, at a high level, consistently. I think that the Kings success will be greatly impacted by taking advantage of opportunities to REST Tyrese. That means monitoring minutes, taking games completely off and taking him out in lop-sided games.

My 2021-22 Tyrese Haliburton Predictions

I am hopeful that even if Haliburton does not show much of an increase in ‘numbers’, his impact on the overall game will increase tremendously. Opposing teams will be forced to scheme harder to deter Haliburton, while he is playing in his MANY potential roles on the Kings. Occasional double teams, opposing defenses shading help towards him while off the ball, and other ‘x’s and o’s’ type things which will help Hali and the Kings be more successful than last year.

In terms of minutes per game, Haliburton was fourth on the team behind Harrison Barnes (36 MPG), Fox (35 MPG), and Hield (34 MPG). Haliburton should see an increase in minutes per game this season, especially during important times of the game.

As Haliburton evolves into his roles, this year and beyond, I think his numbers will be determined by how he is used and NEEDED to win games for the Kings. That may mean some games he is focusing on moving and creating off of the ball, some games where he is initiating offense and setting up Fox, and many games with a mix of both.

Now that the Kings are seemingly in the midst of a positive ‘culture shift’, winning is the expectation. The Sacramento Kings coaching staff should be ABLE to be more focused on scheming lineups and roles to WIN games, not just to develop players for the future (see 2006-2021…).

I can see Haliburton appearing in 63 games this season, compared to 58 last year. He started 20 games last year, and depending on if the Kings trade Buddy Hield or not, I could see Haliburton starting over 50 of those games, or coming off the bench and only starting if Fox is out.

If Buddy doesn’t want to win NBA Sixth Man of the Year, I’m sure Tyrese won’t mind!

One potential lineup some have thrown out there is putting Fox, Buddy, Tyrese, Barnes, and Holmes (or larger big man Alex Len) on the floor at the same time. Some have even talked about switching out Buddy for Kings first-round, 9th overall, draft selection, Davion Mitchell, better known as ‘Off Night’ for his defensive prowess.

My Haliburton 2021-22 Numbers Predictions:

  • 35 minutes, 16 points, 2 steals, 7 assists per game

Sacramento Kings general manager Monte McNair has been creating an improving team and winning culture in SacTown (yea, even though I grew up in the 209, Amador County, I ran cross country/track and field at American River College … may I call it ‘SacTown’ pleaseeeeee @carmichaeldave ?!?).

It will be exciting to see how this team, coaching staff, and organization continue to upgrade!

What do YOU think?

Let me know on my Twitter page! @sactowncrown

Go Kings!

-Tom Witt

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