If the Detroit Pistons are looking for a prospect who can push the organization in the right direction, Tyrese Haliburton could be the answer at the 2020 NBA Draft.
The Detroit Pistons have endured one of the most brutal seasons in franchise history. Through 66 COVID-shortened games, Detroit sits at 20-46, which translates to a win percentage of .303—its lowest mark since 1994.
Marred by injuries and overwhelmed by uncertainty at virtually every position, Detroit is preparing for an offseason that it hopes will bring a reversal of its misfortune.
A healthy Blake Griffin would change the outlook of the Pistons’ future, but the reality remains that the team needs more talent. As such, Troy Weaver could be looking to the future—and will have a golden opportunity to do so.
The lottery will go a long way towards determining whether or not Detroit should be optimistic, but as it presently stands, it’s on pace to have the No. 5 overall selection at the 2020 NBA Draft.
Assuming Detroit holds its position, it will have an opportunity to select a prospect with compelling potential. That’s an encouraging truth when one considers that De’Aaron Fox was the No. 5 overall selection in 2017 and Trae Young went No. 5 in 2018.
As the Pistons evaluate the roster and debate between prospects, there’s one name that should be at the forefront of the discussion: Tyrese Haliburton.
It’s too soon to compare Haliburton to point guards such as Fox or Young, but he has all of the tools to bottom out as a high-level starter. He possesses elite size for his position, as well as the two-way versatility to work either backcourt spot.
That should appeal to Detroit, as it means that Haliburton has both short-term and long-term value to a franchise in need of consistency.
In the short-term, Haliburton can function as an offensive point guard who enables Derrick Rose and Luke Kennard to focus more on scoring. He can also work without the ball to give them opportunities to create.
Defensively, Haliburton can cover up for their flaws with his size, length, and tenacity—three traits that imply elite defensive potential.
Haliburton stands at 6’5″ with a near 6’8″ wingspan and a frame that should enable him to pack on weight without limiting his contributions. He’s not the most explosive athlete, but he moves decisively and has an intriguing fluidity to his game.
It may seem as though Haliburton is outmatched athletically at times, but he finds ways to get to his spots and put the ball in the hands of open shooters.
In terms of how that crosses over to the box score, Haliburton averaged 5.9 rebounds, 2.5 steals, and 0.7 blocks per game in 2019-20. His proficiency in the passing lanes should translate to the next level, which should appeal to the Pistons on a significant level.
Detroit ranks 19th in steals per game in 2019-20, as well as 22nd in points off of turnovers—areas in which Haliburton could help the team see improvement.
Offensively, Haliburton may be the best pure passer in the 2020 NBA Draft. He has tremendous court vision in both the half court and transition, as well as an impressive ability to make plays for his teammates without committing an overwhelming number of turnovers.
In 2019-20, Haliburton averaged 6.5 assists to just 2.8 turnovers per game—good for a more than respectable assist to turnover ratio of 2.33.
Adding a playmaker of Haliburton’s caliber would inevitably simplify the game for the Pistons’ scorers. That includes young players such as Sekou Doumbouya, Kennard, and (potentially) Christian Wood, as well as veterans such as Griffin and Rose.
Detroit admittedly ranked 15th in assists per game during the 2019-20 season, but did so by committee rather than having a true floor general to lead the offense.
What makes Haliburton different from most point guard prospects is that he doesn’t actually need the ball in his hands to make an impact. Passing, defense, and elite size are strengths that offer a strong foundation, but it’s the fact that he can work without the ball that’s the icing on the cake.
In addition to having a case for being the best passer in his draft class, Haliburton is also one of the most prolific shooters on the board.
Over the course of 57 collegiate-level games, Haliburton converted 108 three-point field goals—or 1.9 per game. He did so while shooting 42.6 percent from beyond the arc overall and upwards of 40 percent in each of his two seasons.
That includes 2019-20, when Haliburton buried 2.4 three-point field goals per game on a slash line of .504/.419/.822.
There are concerns about Haliburton’s inconsistency when finishing at the rim, but he has the tools to thrive as a modern point guard. He can defend multiple positions, run an efficient offense, and bury the outside shot with consistency.
If Haliburton and Kennard are the backcourt of the future, then the Pistons would have two players who can pass, shoot, and dribble.
What may be most compelling of all is that Haliburton is still just 20 years of age. It’s rare that players this young have such defined skill sets, but the Iowa State Cyclones star is one of the exceptions to that rule.
If the Pistons have a chance to select Haliburton, they could be acquiring the player who will give the team an identity—even if he doesn’t become a true franchise player.
There are certainly other options to explore, but the Detroit Pistons should do their homework on Tyrese Haliburton. He could be a potential cornerstone.