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The Knicks Should Draft Tyrese Haliburton - Regardless of Where Their Pick Falls

Regardless of where the Knicks end up in the lottery, they should draft Tyrese Haliburton. He is the only player that combines high level shooting, playmaking, and positional versatility. In every environment, Tyrese Haliburton has done what he has been asked to do and he’s done it at an elite level.

FRESHMAN YEAR

As a freshman at Iowa State Haliburton was a complimentary piece alongside 2019 draft picks Marial Shayok and Talen Horton-Tucker. Haliburton was a three-star recruit and was not expected to be a huge contributor right off the bat—his mom thought he would redshirt. He ended up starting 34 of 35 games for the Cyclones and finished second on the team in minutes per game.

Haliburton’s freshman year counting stats don’t jump off the page. He averaged 6.8 points, 3.4 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.5 steals, and .9 blocks per game. How he got those stats is remarkable. Haliburton shot 51.5% from the field on 68.5% from two and 43.4% from three. His TS% of 66.6 and EFG% of 66.2 are astounding for a guard. Haliburton’s 4.5:1 assist to turnover ratio led the Big 12 and was third in the nation. Haliburton was third in the Big 12 in steals per game and tenth in blocks per game. Iowa State defeated Kansas to win the Big 12 Tournament in a game Haliburton shot 4-6 from the field and 3-5 from three.

He had a game with 17 assists to 1 turnover as a secondary ballhandler.

SOPHOMORE YEAR

While Haliburton was an elite complimentary piece, critics wondered how he would handle a roll as the leading man. Very well, it turns out. Four of Iowa State’s five leading scorers graduated or moved on to the NBA after his freshman season, so Haliburton was forced to carry the load.

He increased his counting stats across the board and more than doubled his usage while suffering only a slight decrease in efficiency. Prognosticators like to excuse poor efficiency on a lackluster supporting cast, as is the case with Cole Anthony at UNC. Haliburton missed a game against Florida A&M, and Iowa State lost in the largest BPI upset on record. So, despite a less than stellar supporting cast as a sophomore, Haliburton shot over 50% from the field and over 40% from three. He maintained an outstanding assist to turnover ratio and was a strong defender.

2019 U19 WORLD CUP

Between his freshman and sophomore seasons Haliburton filled a third roll for the U19 World Cup team–a hybrid of his two college rolls. Most of his teammates were rising high school senior phenoms. Cade Cunningham, Scottie Barnes, Jalen Green, and Jalen Suggs were among Haliburton’s U19 teammates that are expected to be 2021 lottery picks. As one of the oldest players on the team, Haliburton was a leader for these gifted young teammates, but due to the immense talent around him, he was not required to carry the scoring load.

He led Team USA in two-point percentage, three-point percentage, assists, assist to turnover ratio, efficiency (FIBA stat), and minutes. He was second in steals and fourth in blocks. He made the all-star five and led team USA to a 7-0 record and the gold medal. In a group of phenoms, Haliburton stood out as Team USA’s best player.

Haliburton shared the backcourt with a ball dominant powerful guard, Cade Cunningham, who thrives using his strength to get to the basket. Sound like anyone? Together they finished the tournament first and third in assists. As a litmus test of the talent on Team USA, fellow rising college sophomore Kira Lewis, a projected first round and potential lottery pick, hardly played.

U19 Highlights

At some point it becomes impossible to ignore results. As a complimentary freshman, leader of a talented group of phenoms, and leader of a less talented Iowa State team, Haliburton has put up elite statistics that contributed to winning basketball. Doubters question his quirky shooting form. He shot over 40% from three both seasons at Iowa State and 55% for Team USA. It is reasonable to question Haliburton’s ability to create offense for himself. However, his ability to create for others and thrive playing team basketball outweighs limitations as a one on one player.

WHAT IT MEANS FOR THE KNICKS

The Knicks biggest needs on offense are shooting and playmaking. They finished 29th in three-point attempts, 27th in three-point percentage, and 27th in assists. The most important long-term consequence of having a poor shooting team is that it hinders the development of RJ Barrett.

Barrett usually shared the floor with three non-shooters including a point guard, Elfrid Payton, that has a tendency to dominate the ball. Barrett’s elite skill and path to stardom is his ability to get to the rim. Barrett finished 27th in the NBA in field goal attempts in the restricted area. The players ahead of him are a who’s who of the best players in the NBA. The caveat is RJ shot just 53.4% on such attempts, by far the lowest percentage of anyone in the top 50 in attempts.

Barrett’s efficiency at the rim will surely increase with more experience, strength, and better decision making. James Harden and Russell Westbrook, by comparison, had restricted area percentages of just 46.6% and 47% respectively in their rookie seasons. But by surrounding Barrett with shooters the Knicks can accelerate Barrett’s progress as a rim finisher.

Tyrese Haliburton, with competition from Devin Vassell and Killian Hayes, is the best shooter of the potential lottery picks. Hayes surely has more potential off the dribble, but he has been poor as a spot up shooter, ranking in just the 18th percentile according to synergy. Haliburton ranks in the 99th percentile as a spot up shooter. 1.431 points per possession. He is a legit sniper. Think about how many times RJ drove and kicked to a wide-open shooter only to have Randle, Payton, or Frank (I’m sorry) brick or pass up the open shot. For those of you worried about how his shooting form will translate to contested shots—he was in the 94th percentile on guarded catch and shoot jumpers.

Haliburton, along with Hayes and LaMelo Ball, is one of the three best playmakers in the draft. Melo is electric with the ball in his hands, a savant no doubt. Hayes can make every pass in the book. Think of Haliburton as a toned down LaMelo Ball as a playmaker. He does not have quite the flare, though he certainly plays with a sense of swagger.

An advantage Haliburton has over Ball and Hayes is that he simply does not turn the ball over. As a freshman, he was third in the nation in assist to turnover ratio. He led the U19 World Cup in assists and assist to turnover ratio. Still, he doesn’t play safe. Haliburton makes his fair share of highlight real passes. Another advantage is that he is a terrific secondary playmaker. He does not need to dominate the ball whereas Melo and Hayes prefer the ball in their hands. As noted above, Haliburton put up a ridiculous 17 assist game as a secondary ballhandler.

Haliburton would give the Knicks tremendous versatility. He would thrive alongside RJ Barrett and help RJ evolve into a primary initiator if that is his destiny. He could thrive next to a future lottery pick, Frank Ntilikina, or Fred Vanvleet if that’s your flavor. He just seems like the type of player teammates would love to share the court with.

All of this fails to mention what Haliburton’s unselfish style of play and passing ability would do for Mitch. Good things I’m sure.

Hook and Pocket Passes

Tyrese Haliburton is unlike any other prospect. It’s understandable to fear the unknown. But again, at some point you have to trust the results. Haliburton is an elite shooter and playmaker. He is the only player in this draft that combines these coveted characteristics. He will be the ying to RJ’s yang and is versatile enough to excel in whatever roll he is asked to play.

I highly recommend watching the breakdown below and getting to know your future Knick. Speak it into existence!

Draft Express Breakdown