KANSAS CITY, MISSOURI - MARCH 14: Tyrese Haliburton #22 of the Iowa State Cyclones celebrates during the quarterfinal game of the Big 12 Basketball Tournament against the Baylor Bears at Sprint Center on March 14, 2019 in Kansas City, Missouri.
(Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

The New York Knicks need to modernize the roster with an electrifying point guard. Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton might be worth the reach.

Josh Benjamin

Tyrese Haliburton might be one of the most versatile players in the 2020 NBA Draft class.

The former Iowa State standout was a force at point guard for the Cyclones in his sophomore season. He led the team in scoring, passing, steals, and tied for the team lead in rebounding.

Now, consider that the New York Knicks will once again have a lottery pick in this year’s draft. More importantly, a new regime is in the driver’s seat now that Steve Mills is gone from the front office. No, former player agent Leon Rose is now in charge and looking to bring some much-needed change to the Big Apple.

This means regardless of their draft position, the Knicks will likely use one of their two first-round picks on a point guard. The NBA has evolved into a game where the scoring point man is king, a la Steph Curry, and the Knicks have a gaping hole at the position.

Just where he’ll fall in the draft is up for debate, but Tyrese Haliburton could be just what the doctor ordered in New York.

Pros

Let’s start with Haliburton’s numbers which, admittedly, are eye-catching. He posted 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds, 6.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per contest in 22 games for Iowa State last season. Haliburton also shot 50.4% from the field and 41.9% from three-point range. He also posted these numbers over 36.7 minutes per game, and further coaching and conditioning will prep him for playing more on the NBA level.

Haliburton’s deeper analytical numbers are even more astounding. His true shooting percentage (TS%) in his sophomore year was 63.1%, a number more often associated with a center than a point guard. These numbers aren’t solely the product of playing in a college offense either. Haliburton posted win shares per 40 minutes (WS/40) of .187 and a defensive box plus/minus (DBPM) of 3.1.

His offensive box plus/minus was also a respectable 9.1. Even as, for lack of a better word, a system player, Haliburton was indeed making meaningful contributions on both sides of the court.

Another key asset of Tyrese Haliburton is his size. He’s long and lean for a point guard at 6-foot-5, 175 pounds. He’ll obviously need to bulk up, but this gives him an advantage in creating mismatches on defense. Not only that, but guys like Zach LaVine and Spencer Dinwiddie prove there is indeed precedent for taller players handling the ball. Haliburton can easily be the next of this particular mold of players.

Cons

Of course, as is the case with any draft prospects, Haliburton comes with risk attached. In fact, whichever team drafts him will take on a few risks that could make or break his development.

First, great as he was for Iowa State last season, Haliburton is still a raw product. It’s clear from watching the above video. He reads the court well, but hesitates in traffic. Under this type of duress, some of his passes look forced. Though Haliburton only averaged 2.8 turnovers a game as a sophomore, this number will almost certainly go up in the pros as he adjusts accordingly.

Then, there’s Haliburton’s jump shot. Not only can he not really create one on his own, but his form isn’t at all conventional. He has this weird little push release reminiscent of Shawn Marion, but that’s not the weirdest part. Haliburton doesn’t seem to release the ball until the last possible second. For our older readers, imagine playing “NBA Live 2000” and hitting the shoot button, but not releasing the shot until the very end. This is exactly what Tyrese Haliburton’s shot is like.

Finally, it’s Haliburton’s size which raises a red flag on this writer’s end. He’s Reggie Miller-levels of skinny and will need more than fancy scoring to get by in the NBA. Opposing players won’t be afraid of challenging him on the court. If he doesn’t bulk up, he’s going to have a hard time developing into a viable scoring point guard on the NBA level.

Does he fit the Knicks?

And when all is said and done, does Tyrese Haliburton fit the New York Knicks? From a positional standpoint, the answer is a resounding yes. The Knicks have been in the market for an athletic scoring point guard longer than some fans have even been alive.

The problem is despite being an athletic dynamo on a struggling Iowa State team, Haliburton right now looks more like a skill player in the NBA. His versatility is a blessing and a curse.

In fact, the Knicks drafted a very similar player last year in RJ Barrett. He was a slashing scorer at Duke and also a solid on-ball defender. Sure, he averaged 18.7 points per game in March and appeared to be turning a corner, but the fact remains Barrett struggled to adjust to the NBA’s pace. He can still be an elite scorer for the Knicks, but still has lots of development ahead of him at just 19 years old.

The difference, however, is Barrett isn’t a scoring point guard. It was generally accepted the moment he was drafted that he’d need time to adjust.

Given the Knicks’ needs, Haliburton might very well be expected to immediately produce at a high level.

Final thoughts

More importantly, it’s still unclear just when Haliburton will be selected. Were the draft today, the Knicks would have the No. 6 and No. 27 selections. Meanwhile, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic has Haliburton going No. 10 to the Phoenix Suns in his latest mock draft. NBADraft.net has the former Cyclone going No. 11 to the San Antonio Spurs. In a break with convention, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report has Haliburton going No. 4 to the Atlanta Hawks.

And what does this all mean for the Knicks? That depends on Rose and general manager Scott Perry. If they decide Haliburton is their guy, they can draft him at No. 6. Or, if that’s too much of a reach for their blood, they can use the No. 27 pick and other assets to trade up. This allows the No. 6 pick to be used on the best player available who, if we’re being honest, won’t be Haliburton at that point.

One way or another, this much is certain: Tyrese Haliburton has a unique set of skills and would absolutely be an improvement at the point. He’ll need time, but the potential is there.

So long as the Knicks are willing to be as patient with him as they have been with Barrett (so far), Haliburton could easily be the one who finally brings the Knicks forward as a team.

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