Tyrese Haliburton is new to the NBA, but he sure isn't playing like it.
Just nine games into his NBA career, Haliburton's stellar offensive skillset has assured the 20-year-old as a mainstay in the Kings' offense. He's also garnering plenty of high praise around the league. ESPN draft analyst Mike Schmitz is no exception to that, as he compared Haliburton's prolific shooting range to five-time All-Star Damian Lillard.
"It's the flashes of his Damian Lillard-esque shooting range that could make Haliburton a nightmare cover, mitigating some of the pre-draft concerns about his slight frame, lack of shift with the ball and overall ability to go get a bucket in a pick-and-roll," Schmitz wrote.
Schmitz also detailed the versatility of Haliburton, and how it complicates the defense of his opponents.
"His ability to tee-up his long-range jumper from 30-plus feet when teams go under pick-and-roll is forcing teams to defend him with drops, which he's too skilled to not pick apart as a passer or a scorer," Schmitz noted.
Haliburton was long regarded as a top-10 draft pick, so it was quite the surprise when the Kings were able to snatch him with the No. 12 overall pick. So far, he might be the steal of the draft.
The Iowa State product is averaging 12.1 points and 5.3 assists per game. He has started just one game -- out of necessity when Richaun Holmes was a late scratch -- but plays starters minutes, averaging 28.6 per contest. He's an all-around effective player, but Haliburton's shot selection, adaptability and his innate ability to run the offense and feed his teammates, makes him a standout player for the Kings and a viable candidate for Rookie of the Year.
Schmitz believes that too, saying if Haliburton manages to play close to 30 minutes a game, he's "right up there" with James Wiseman (Warriors), LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets) and No. 1 overall pick Anthony Edwards (Minnesota Timberwolves) in the Rookie of the Year mix.
The Kings snapped a two-game skid Monday with a thrilling 127-122 victory over the Indiana Pacers, one that Haliburton played a full role in. As the season rolls on, Sacramento will monitor his health out of caution, as he played just 17 games in his previous college season. However, given Haliburton's electric playmaking and remarkable basketball IQ, it's fair to expect him as a long-term staple in the Kings' rotation.