With nearly half the Sacramento Kings’ roster sidelined due to COVID-19, Tyrese Haliburton has flourished in the role of primary shot-creator.
De’Aaron Fox, the Kings’ main offensive engine is among those sidelined, meaning Haliburton has been forced into the driver seat for Sacramento. In the three games Fox has missed, Haliburton has attempted 16, 19, and 18 shots, the most shots attempted of any player roster in that time frame.
Haliburton is passive by nature and clearly feels a sense of pride in creating shots for his teammates, but his own shot is a weapon in itself. When he shares the court with Fox, Haliburton plays more of a tertiary role, filling in the cracks and providing a secondary ball-handling option. In recent games though, Haliburton has shown why even when the Kings get players back healthy, his offensive game needs to be more of a priority for the team.
Haliburton is the most efficient shot creator on the Kings roster, and he needs to recognize that and start being consistently more aggressive with his shot, even when De’Aaron Fox returns to the lineup. Even if Haliburton eats into some of Fox’s attempts, this is a worthwhile trade-off for the Kings.
Certain sections of Kings fans have seen Haliburton’s success as a sign that the team should trade Fox, but I think that misses the point a little bit. There are enough possessions and shots to go around for a team to have two great initiators. With the pairing just in its second year together, they just need more time to gel together before deciding to break up the pair, unless there is some undeniable roster upgrade available.
Fox’s usage rate is 28% and Haliburton’s is just 17.1%. There is a real case that Haliburton and Fox should be closer in this metric.
Haliburton has been killing it from just about every spot on the court. He’s continued to excel as a three-point shooter, now at 41.4% on the season, on a more diverse set of attempts than he attempted as a rookie. Also, he’s gotten much more comfortable operating in the mid-range, an area of the court he didn’t use quite as much as a rookie.
There aren’t that many guards in the NBA that operate better out of the pick and roll than Haliburton. His timing and feel make him the ideal partner for any athletic big man like Richaun Holmes or as we’ve seen recently, Damian Jones.
In the Kings’ 108-89 loss to the Toronto Raptors last week, Haliburton attempted only two shots, and back on Nov. 28 in a 128-101 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, Haliburton attempted just four shots. For a player as efficient as Haliburton, this is unacceptable and just can’t happen going forward. In my mind, Haliburton should be attempting around 15 shots a game even when the Kings’ roster is back to full health.
The Kings roster is still notably absent of a wing creator that can operate out of the pick and roll, but considering his length at 6 foot 5, Haliburton can be that guy in a pinch.
Haliburton has also flashed the ability to take and make those superstar guard three-pointers that we see guys like Trae Young, Stephen Curry, and Damian Lillard attempt. Haliburton’s unorthodox release prevents him from being extremely high volume like these guys, but still has comfort using stepbacks and dribble moves to give him enough space to consistently make this shot.
In just the last few games, he’s looked extremely comfortable with these shots, and it should be a bigger part of his offensive menu going forward.
I’m really bullish on Haliburton’s long-term upside, but for him to fully realize it, he needs to be the guy we’ve seen in recent games and not the passive guy who finishes with single-digit shot attempts.