The National Basketball League's inaugural In-Season Tournament is officially in the books and while the Indiana Pacers did not leave Las Vegas with the NBA Cup, the tournament was far from a waste of their time. On the NBA's second biggest stage, Pacers' guard Tyrese Haliburton established himself as not only a premier point guard but as one of the top players in the entire NBA.
Over seven games during the tournament, Haliburton, averaged 26.7 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 13.3 assists. Those numbers are incredible enough, but paired with his 52.4/42.5/86.7 shooting splits, it's clear that he is among the NBA's elite. Drawing comparisons to a far more aggressive version of two-time MVP Steve Nash, Haliburton has put the Pacers back on the NBA map with his play alone.
The 2023-24 season has been filled with rising stars, especially at the point guard position. From Shai Gilgeous-Alexander looking the part of an MVP as the Thunder continue to exceed expectations to Tyrese Maxey transitioning from a starting-caliber combo guard to the Sixers' new franchise point. guard. Even still, Tyrese Haliburton has kept pace and then some with each of them when it comes to the leap he's made this season.
Where does Tyrese Haliburton rank amongst the best point guards after leading the Pacers to the NBA Cup?
To fully understand where Haliburton ranks in the NBA point guard landscape, one must first look at what makes him special as a player. It may come as a surprise that, despite his impressive scoring average, Tyrese Haliburton ranks seventh in points per game among point guards.
The distance between himself and the competition is not far in most cases, but Haliburton's value goes beyond basic scoring numbers. For instance, his efficiency across the board is nearly unmatched compared to other point guards.
Ranking first in three-point percentage, second in field goal and true shooting percentages, and seventh in free-throw percentage, Haliburton is effective at every level as a shooter. The only player who is competitive to him in terms of true shooting is the man who leads the league, though only be a tenth of a percentage point, Steph Curry. That alone is a fantastic company to be in as a shooter.
Looking at perhaps the most exciting facet of his game, Tyrese Haliburton has proven to be the top facilitator in the NBA and it's far from a close competition. Not only is Haliburton leading the league in assists, but he's an entire assist and a half per game ahead of second-place, Trae Young, and 3.4 assists per game higher than Luka Doncic and Fred Van Vleet who rank third among guards. Haliburton also leads the league in assist percentage and ranks fifth among qualified point guards in assist-to-turnover ratio per 100 possessions.
Beyond the numbers, Haliburton has proven to be the leader the Pacers have needed for some time. Indiana head coach Rick Carlise gave his star point guard high marks last Friday after the team's practice, signaling out Haliburton's "connectivity with people" as not only a leadership trait but yet another parallel to Hall-of-Famer Steve Nash.
That type of intangible skill cannot be overstated, especially for a team looking to return to both the playoffs, and contending status. His ability and intangibles have helped Haliburton grow into one of the top guards in the league certainly, but how high has he risen?
The short of it is, no point guard has played better than Haliburton this season short of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and even that is debatable. While players like Luka Doncic and Damian Lillard have the advantage in terms of track record, Haliburton has surely outshined both of those future Hall of Fame talents this season.
While where exactly Halburton ranks can and will be fiercely debated, his play not only during the regular season but during the NBA's In-Season Tournament, the young guard has placed himself right in the midst of the conversation.