This week we hone in on Sacramento’s rookie Tyrese Haliburton playmaking. Next, how Tobias Harris is processing the game faster. Finally, what Gonzaga’s sharpshooter Corey Kispert brings to the NBA.

KINGS STRIKE GOLD WITH A ROOKIE PLAYMAKER 

Tyrese Haliburton checked off many boxes during the draft process. That is why many were somewhat puzzled by his fall out of the top 10. Lucky (or ahead of the curve), Sacramento pounced on the high IQ ball handler out of Iowa St. Head Coach Luke Walton has not been shy to dust off his prized rookie. Thru four games Haliburton has been a playmaking revelation. The Kings back-up distributor joined an exclusive list of established NBA stars to post 20+ assists, 9 (or less) turnovers, 8+ threes while shooting 50%+ from the field.

Players with 20+ assists, 9 (or less) turnovers, 8+ threes and 50%+ FG% thru 12-30 *per NBA.com
Players with 20+ assists, 9 (or less) turnovers, 8+ threes and 50%+ FG% thru 12-30 *per NBA.com

Haliburton’s wizardry played a massive role in Sacramento’s comeback win over Denver, fueling an eye-opening fourth quarter. The stat line? 12 minutes. 3 for 5 from the field. 8 points. 5 assists. 1 steal and a +14. But the numbers tell only part of the story. Haliburton knifed thru the heart of Denver’s defense, attacking Jokic with relentless pace.

A simple eye fake here is enough to get Jokic leaning one way. The no-look dish to a rolling Richaun Holmes seals an easy two points for Sacramento. It is within this same framework where Haliburton found a ton of easy buckets. Watch how he uses a high dribble to avoid the poke followed by a soft touch pass over a stretched 7-footer.

Impressive stuff! Haliburton is only beginning to scratch the surface of his game. The Kings rookie brings a game-changing defensive pedigree to a team that struggled to defend last year. Walton now has a late-game solution on both ends of the court, and an alternate ball handler to pair alongside De’Aron Fox. Thus making Sacramento a sneaky early surprise team in the West.

‘SPEED IT UP TOBIAS!’ 

Raise your hand if you were pulling your hair from watching Tobias Harris last year. The Sixers clunky roster often left Harris with a hot potato, and Tobias responded by dribbling the shot clock into a contested mid-range look. But with Doc Rivers Harris has taken a more decisive role. The directive is clear. Act with intention, optimize the possession and shoot when open. Call it, ‘message received’.

Tobias Harris Touches Stat thru 12-31-2020 *per NBA.com
Tobias Harris Touches Stat thru 12-31-2020 *per NBA.com

It is hard to separate the contract and the player in the Tobias Harris conversation. But this season Harris’ decisiveness has blossomed into the ideal complimentary offense around Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The Sixers often tag Embiid in the pick-and-roll, and it is Harris’ quick downhill dribble that opens up a clean look for Joel.

No one will ever mistake Harris for an elite shot creator. But Harris provides a difficult ball handling matchup at power forward. As we are seeing, there is plenty to unlock from his north to south dribble. His quick decision as a passer has also enabled easier buckets for Embiid. 

While Harris has made strides on the ball, it is off the catch where his game can take off. Thru December 31st, Harris was 1 of only 5 players to shoot 50% (or better) on 20+ catch and shoot three attempts. With a shooting mindset in place, Tobias has benefited from a series of open looks alongside Simmons. 

Rivers has talked about hitting teams early with the defense in scramble mode. Five seconds into the possession Tobias Harris is already in shooting form. The Simmons – Harris partnership is one way Philadelphia has unlocked offense this season. In the last three Sixers wins heading into the New Year, Harris combined for 63 points and an impressive +83. Signs that a quicker Tobias is the right Tobias for this team.

YOUR COLLEGE BASKETBALL PROSPECT: WING – COREY KISPERT

THE RESUME

  • 21.1 points per game (9 games)
  • 51% shooting on 6.4 three attempts per game (43% on 5.4 attempts in 19-20)
  • 76% true shooting (62% in 19-20)
  • 4% turnover rate with a 23% usage rate (11% turnover rate in 19-20)

WHAT I LIKE

  • A quick decision-maker off the catch. Understands his role. Does not clog the offense with unecessary dribbles. High confidence as a shooter 
  • Volume shooter from distance. Balanced. Good frame. High potential as a stationary catch and shoot specialist.
  • High IQ. Plays with his head up. Quick and decisive passer. Leverages perimeter gravity to create off the pass. 
  • High motion player. Not easy to track. Understands how and when to flash for a pass. 
  • Provides an adequate ball-handling option off dribble hand-offs. Can attack a hard hedge by slow-footed big and finish over smaller help defender. 

WHAT I DO NOT LIKE

  • Stiff and slow to move laterally. Easily shaken off the defender from the first dribble. Vulnerable in a switch-heavy league. 
  • Average vertical athlete. Limited as a three-level scorer and ability to finish over bigger defenders.
  • Defensive fundamentals need work. High effort but susceptible to ball fakes and unnecessary fouls.
  • Limited shot creator with a deliberate dribble. Will struggle to manage NBA pressure and attack athletes off the bounce.
  • Low impact help defender. Does not engage on the glass. 

PROJECTION

Corey Kispert is a name that I’ve had an eye on for a few seasons now. The Gonzaga sharpshooter has exploded this year on a team loaded with talent. Kispert is thriving as a premier weapon alongside loterry prospect Jalen Suggs. At 6’7″ and 220 pounds he fits the mold of the classic NBA specialist. His ability to process the game at a high speed is very enticing in a league that continues to prioritize pace of play. But Kispert does come with athletic concerns that will limit his impact as a 3&D prospect. In a switch heavy league those concerns will likely keep him out of the loterry. Mock drafts currently have him all over the place, which is a sign of his volatility as a projection. But be sure, Kispert should add substantial shooting in the NBA.