The Sacramento Kings selected Tyrese Haliburton with the 12th overall pick in the NBA draft Wednesday night, adding depth to a backcourt that is almost certain to undergo significant changes.
Haliburton averaged 15.2 points and 6.5 assists during his sophomore season at Iowa State. He shot better than 42% from 3-point range during his college career.
Considered one of the best guards available in the draft, the 6-foot-5 Haliburton was projected to go as high as the Top 5 but fell to the Kings, where he will join point guard De’Aaron Fox in the backcourt.
Haliburton said no one in his family has ever been to California but called Sacramento “the perfect spot for me.”
“The team Sacramento has now, there’s a young core that’s ready to compete, ready to be healthy and be able to truly compete to make the playoffs,” Haliburton said. “I don’t know too much about Sacramento but I’m looking forward to learning the place and really calling that place home for the rest of my career hopefully.”
Sacramento later added 6-foot-8 Xavier Tillman, the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year who was the 35th overall pick. Tillman averaged 13.7 points and 10.3 rebounds in his final season with Michigan State. The Kings also drafted Texas Tech shooting guard Jahmi’us Ramsey (43rd overall) and forward KJ Martin (52nd), a high school standout who skipped college to join the NBA and the son of former No. 1 overall pick Kenyon Martin.
The Kings’ 14-year playoff drought is the longest active streak in the NBA and the second-longest drought in league history. First-year Sacramento general manager Monte McNair, armed with four picks in this year’s draft, is hoping to build around Fox and Marvin Bagley III, the second overall pick in 2018.
Adding Haliburton is the first step.
“He’s and incredible talent on both ends,” McNair said. “A very good passer, a good shooter, he can finish. He’s really got a versatile skill set on that end. Defensively he can guard multiple positions.”
While Fox will continue to lead the offense, Haliburton should help improve Sacramento’s uneven defense, where his 6-foot-7 wingspan will be a benefit.
Haliburton can also control the ball and is an effective passer, which should allow Fox to attack and be more aggressive.
Two years ago the Kings were among the fastest-paced teams in the NBA, but that fell off last season in Luke Walton’s first year as coach. McNair has made it clear he wants Sacramento to get back to their running ways, and although speed isn’t among Haliburton’s top traits, his ability to play under control should play nicely alongside Fox’s up-and-down style.
“I’m just a high IQ dude. I’m a student of the game of basketball,” Haliburton said. “I spend a lot of time watching film, doing the little things that some people might not want to take the time to do. I love the game of basketball and I’m invested in it with my whole heart.”
Haliburton also gives the Kings insurance for the long-term should they not be able to reach terms with Fox on a max contract extension.