Despite opening the 2022-23 NBA season with a loss against the Washington Wizards, 107-114, there are still a few bright spots the Indiana Pacers can ponder on. With a comparatively smaller roster, the Indiana-based squad was still able to cut their visitor’s lead to as much as three during the final stretch of the fourth quarter.
Amidst all these, the game saw the rise of an all-star point guard in the making, former Iowa State Cyclone Tyrese Haliburton.
Acquired in early February this year off a trade with the Sacramento Kings, the 6’5″ guard has been consistently delivering the goods for the Pacers. With an impressive showing for his team, is he currently the best point guard in the central division?
Walk Your Talk
Back in 2020, in an NBA Draft Combine videoconference, the ex-Cyclone said that he facilitates better than anybody in the 2020 NBA Draft class. In another interview, he stated that he is one of the best passers — if not the best.
For others, these statements may come off as a bit too overconfident of Haliburton, but it is a good thing that he backs these statements with statistics.
Throughout his two seasons playing for Iowa State, the 6-foot-5 guard posted an average of 10.1 points per game, along with 4.7 assists, 1.9 steals, 0.8 blocks, and 4.4 rebounds. He also garnered an average of 50.9 shooting success rate on the field and 42.6 percent efficiency from beyond the arc.
Tyrese Haliburton tonight:
He’s only 22. pic.twitter.com/kOKIkQBK3D
— StatMuse (@statmuse) October 20, 2022
Stats For Iowa State
Although his last season with Iowa was shortened by a left wrist fracture in a battle against the Wildcats, Haliburton still managed to be the sixth in the Big 12 in terms of scoring, with an average of 15.2 points per game. He was definitely one of the best Iowa state basketball players of the last decade.
He also finished first both in steals (2.5) and assists (6.5), second in assist-to-turnover ratio (2.3), third in three-point success rate (41.9), and thirteenth in rebounds (5.9), earning him the top spot in the PAR per game in the Big 12 with 27.5.
In March 2020, Haliburton ended his collegiate career with Iowa and officially declared for the 2020 NBA draft, where he finished as the 12th overall pick in the first round, selected by the Sacramento Kings.
— Iowa State Men’s Basketball (@CycloneMBB) January 5, 2020
First Experience in NBA
The former Cyclone star played behind the shadow of veteran De’Aarob Fox in his two-year stint with the Kings. In his rookie year, he tallied an average of 13 points per game while chipping in 1.3 steals, 5. 3 assists, and three rebounds.
The guard also showed off an impressive shooting efficiency, posting 47.2 from the field, 40.9 from beyond the arc, and 85.7 on free throws. In the same year, he was also named to the 2020-21 NBA All-Rookie First Team, living up to the lines he stated a couple of months back before his draft.
Haliburton already earned a starting nod in his sophomore year, earning him more minutes on the floor. The guard took advantage of this opportunity and became one of the Kings’ main guns, generating 17.3 points backed with 9.4 assists.
His shooting success rate also continued to improve that season, exhibiting a 47 percent efficiency on the field while generating 43 percent from beyond the arc — until midway through that season, he was traded to the Pacers, which he never saw coming.
The Kings really traded Tyrese Haliburton 🤯🤯🤯🤯 pic.twitter.com/6YynUO7qsT
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) February 8, 2022
Should The Kings Regret Trading Him To The Pacers?
The 6’5″ point guard has been vocal about how he wants the Kings to regret their decision of letting him go. “I just love proving people wrong… Everything I do, I just want it to be like, ‘[Look at what the Kings did]!” he stated in an interview with Basketball News’ Alex Kennedy.
In his 26-game stint for the Pacers for the rest of the 2021-22 season, he managed to snatch a starting spot right away, delivering 17.5 points, 9.6 assists and 4.3 rebounds for the team.
Just recently, Haliburton tallied a team-high 26 points with seven assists and four rebounds in their season-opening loss against the Wizards.
With these numbers, is it safe to say that Haliburton is now the best point guard in the central division? Moreover, will these numbers be enough in bringing the Pacers back to the playoffs?
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 19, 2022
Who Are His Competitors?
Although it cannot be denied that Haliburton is an excellent point guard, there are also a couple of guards in the central division that can give him a run for his money in his quest to become the best point guard in the central division.
6’5″ Bulls point guard Ayo Dosunmu is one of his competitors. Dosunmu has been effective in his position on the Bulls’ roster, garnering 17 points with six rebounds and four assists in his team’s opening win against the Miami Heat.
Dosunmu takes pride in his excellent shooting skills, posting an impressive 44 percent jump shot efficiency the previous season, while also adding 39 percent from beyond the arc. He is also known to be a good defender, which resulted in a well-earned spot in last season’s NBA All-Rookie team.
Ayo Dosunmu with a new career-high 21 points on 9-10 shooting! pic.twitter.com/N67ZLY0TNq
— Chicago Bulls (@chicagobulls) January 16, 2022
The Milwaukee Bucks’ 6’5″ point guard Jrue Holiday is also a good challenger for Habilurton. A 13-year veteran, Holiday’s edge not only against his fellow point guards in the central division but in the entire league is his experience.
A multi-awarded star, Holiday is known for being a good defender as well, with him being a 4-time member of the NBA All-Defensive Team.
He was also a part of the NBA All-Star in 2013. With the help of his offensive and defensive services, the Bucks were able to bag the 2021 NBA title, his first. Although Holiday struggled in the Bucks’ opening win against the 76ers, he is still a force to reckon with, for sure.
Jrue Holiday. NBA Champion. pic.twitter.com/9PmjtRoAI0
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) July 21, 2021
Darius Garland of the Cavaliers can also be a threat to Haliburton. An outstanding point guard for his team, Garland has been one of the Cavs’ leaders in terms of offense, providing 21.7 points per game last season.
He also stepped up for the injury-laden Cavs that season, filling in the holes left by Collin Sexton and Ricky Rubio.
Unfortunately, Garland may miss a few games this season after a season-opening eye injury acquired during their battle against the Raptors.
Darius Garland in his last 10 games:
— Cleveland Cavaliers (@cavs) March 19, 2022
Detroit’s Cade Cunningham is also another great point guard in the central division. After an impressive rookie season, Cunningham has cemented himself to be his team’s best asset this season, averaging 17.4 points, 5.6 assists, and 5.5 rebounds the previous season.
However, his waterloo has to be his underwhelming shooting success rate, displaying a 31 percent shooting efficiency in the pre-season, comparatively lower than his point guard counterparts.
Despite obviously having the upper hand against his fellow point guards in the central division, it is still too early to say that Haliburton is the best point guard in his division. Rather, it is much safer to say that he is one of the best point guards there is.
— Bally Sports Detroit (@BallySportsDET) October 20, 2022
Areas for Continued Development
Throughout his NBA career so far, Haliburton’s hard work has been pretty commendable. Who wouldn’t remember his post-game hustle after the Kings’ 49-point loss against the Jazz in his rookie year?
He shot 49 three-pointers from seven different spots that night, proving how much of a hard worker he is.
Until today, Haliburton still has a couple of rough spots to work on. These include his inability to come up with a successful shot off the dribble.
He should also add more strength to his physique in order to become a more effective defender. Say he is able to work on these spots, it’s not impossible for him to be the best point guard not only in his division but even in the entire league as well.
Tyrese Haliburton in his Pacers debut:
60% FG pic.twitter.com/YZ7i59tiCE
— NBACentral (@TheNBACentral) February 12, 2022
Haliburton is one of the best in his position, no doubt. With a promising season ahead, he is definitely someone to watch out for, for the rest of the season.
Expect him to lead the Indiana-based squad to rise from an opening defeat en route to a comeback to the playoffs.
roll the tape on Tyrese Haliburton's season opener.📼
— Indiana Pacers (@Pacers) October 20, 2022