The first award of the season has come in for Tyrese Haliburton, and it seems like it won’t be the last.
The rookie guard, picked no. 12 overall in the 2020 NBA Draft by the Kings, has been named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for all games through the end of January (seeing as December didn’t have enough days to qualify). Per team PR, Haliburton is the seventh Kings player to earn such honors and the first since Buddy Hield in March 2017.
Haliburton is sixth among all first-years with 10.7 points per game, ninth in rebounds, second in assists, and second in total 3-point makes. He has also been particularly impactful for the Kings in crunch time. He leads all rookies in clutch minutes (defined as the score being within five points in the final five minutes), during which he shooting 62.5 percent from the field, including 4-of-6 on threes. Sacramento is 8-4 so far in close games, and Haliburton’s big shots against the Bulls and Raptors stand out from those victories.
Charlotte's LaMelo Ball and Sacramento's Tyrese Haliburton were just named Eastern and Western Conference Rookie of the Month by the NBA— Marc Stein (@TheSteinLine) February 2, 2021
LaMelo Ball, who is Haliburton’s presumable competition for Rookie of the Year at this early juncture, was the honoree in the Eastern Conference. Ball is 3rd among first-year players in points per game, second in rebounds, and first in assists. Apparently, it’s common practice for Kings lottery guards to have a Ball brother as a natural rival, and Haliburton and LaMelo are playing their parts to perfection at this early juncture.
The other nominees in the Western Conference for Rookie of the Month were no. 1 pick Anthony Edwards and no. 2 pick James Wiseman, as well as no. 30 pick Desmond Bane and undrafted Jae’Sean Tate, who spent two years playing overseas before signing with the Rockets this year. The early returns make it clear that while there is certainly value to be found at the top of the draft, there is also a lot of talent throughout. Haliburton is just one such example.
It’s already hard to imagine how the Kings would function without Haliburton — though the two games he missed with injury gave an unpleasant taste. He’s a fixture in this franchise, and as the NBA has recognized, he’s already carved out a place in this league.