Editor's Note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two “Sleepers” likely to be evaluated. This is the first of a 12-part series on intriguing prospects considered risky to select among the top 10.
In their first naked display of long-range thinking, the Warriors paid $2.4 million for a second-round draft pick in 2016 and selected versatile, two-way guard Patrick McCaw, who showed glimpses of potential but eventually wanted out.
The retry came in 2018, with the Warriors using their first-round pick, No. 28 overall, to select Jacob Evans. He showed so few signs of progress over 1.5 seasons that the Warriors traded him.
The Warriors are contemplating Take III in 2020 and their willingness to move down in the first round could lead to Tyrese Haliburton, as versatile a two-way guard as there is in this draft.
Haliburton’s size and skills fit what the Warriors covet. They selected McCaw and Evans, both rangy and court-wise, after noting the mileage on reliable veterans Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston and realizing it was time to groom replacements.
It’s too late for Andre or Shaun to participate in real-time grooming. Inasmuch as Iguodala was traded last July and Livingston announced his retirement two months later, the next youngster entering the locker room with a similar profile must be ready to contribute.
Haliburton spent two seasons at Iowa State and emerged as the team leader as a sophomore in 2019-20. Like Livingston, he’s a gifted passer with a nice midrange turnaround jumper. Like Iguodala, he is antelope-like in transition and also has a knack for making an impact on defense.
Like most teams, the Warriors value length, so Haliburton’s 7-foot wingspan – one inch longer than those of Iguodala and Livingston – is exceedingly attractive.
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The biggest warts on Haliburton are his thin frame, a few pounds north of McCaw, and his slow-trigger jumper, which is accurate all the way out from NBA 3-ball range but seems maybe blink quicker than that of Evans.
Haliburton’s shooting efficiency was on display last year in the FIBA U19 World Cup in Greece, where his numbers were superior to those of Klay Thompson and Jayson Tatum in such competition– though only Haliburton was tasked with running the offense.
There is no shortage of Haliburton comparisons. Some say Dejounte Murray, others say Dante Exum. Some say Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, others say a rangier Mike Conley. Some say Michael Carter-Williams with a jumper. Nearly all see shades of Lonzo Ball and consider Haliburton a point guard who also excels off the ball.
As a guest last month on the “Lightharted” podcast of Pelicans guard Josh Hart, Haliburton didn’t run from the Ball comparison while also adding a splash of humor.
“Every comparison that I ever see about me until I play my first game is going to be Lonzo,” Haliburton said. “We had basically similar college numbers. I have an unorthodox form like he does and I’m tall and light-skinned. So, you’re always going to hear that comparison. it makes sense. We play similar types of basketball.”
Though Haliburton’s season ended in February due to a fracture his left (non-shooting) wrist, he has moved from the 16-20 range to possible top 10.
If the Warriors target him, they will want to move down. The brain trust identified a need in 2016. Four years later, it’s still a need.
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Tyrese Haliburton profile
Birthdate: Feb. 29, 2000 (20)
Hometown: Oshkosh, WI
2019-20 stats: 12.3 points (50.4 percent FG, 41.9 percent 3p, 82.2 percent FT), 6.5 assists, 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals.
What they’re saying: “I think he’ll be terrific. He checks so many boxes. Nobody knew about him last year. As people came to practice to watch the guys we had on last year’s team, scouts kept asking me about Haliburton, Haliburton, Haliburton. They loved his basketball IQ, his floor demeanor, they loved his engagement with teammates, and they obviously loved his skill level.” – Iowa State coach Steve Prohm, to reporters when Haliburton announced he was entering the draft