Steal of the draft? Haliburton projects as NBA's top rookie


Tyrese Haliburton has looked really good in his first two NBA preseason games, and his performances might be a sign of things to come for the Kings rookie.

While Haliburton was drafted No. 12 overall by the Kings, he was projected by some to go in the top five.

Despite his draft position, Haliburton arguably is one of the most talented players entering the NBA this season.

So it probably shouldn't surprise anyone that FiveThirtyEight is projecting Haliburton as the top rookie for the 2020-21 NBA season.

Editor-in-chief Nate Silver tweeted the rankings Monday night, and FiveThirtyEight has Haliburton ahead of Warriors No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards. Silver noted that their projections prefer a player with a diverse skill set as opposed to a high-usage player.

According to Silver, the projections only include players who appeared in NCAA games during the 2019-20 season, so No. 3 overall pick LaMelo Ball, No. 7 overall pick Killian Hayes and No. 9 overall pick Deni Avdija are ineligible for this projection.

After a modest five-point, three-rebound, two-assist performance against the Portland Trail Blazers in the preseason opener on Friday, Haliburton followed that up with 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds in the Kings' win over the Blazers on Sunday night.

The former Iowa State star already is impressing his veteran teammates.


“He’s been a leader since he stepped in,” Richaun Holmes told reporters after Sunday's game. “He does a great job pushing the pace, he pushes us on the defensive end, he’s always in the pacing lanes, putting pressure on the ball. He’s been playing great. He’s going to be a huge part of this team moving forward.”

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Whether or not Haliburton and his agent engineered a draft-night fall to the Kings, the rookie is happy to be in Sacramento and he wants to show he belongs.

“It’s a mission for me to prove these guys right, that they made the right choice and prove others wrong that didn’t make that choice,” Haliburton told reporters Sunday night. “I just have a great staff that really has my back and stays on me at all times.”

If Haliburton lives up to FiveThirtyEight's projections, the Kings will be over the moon with the first draft pick of the Monte McNair era.