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'Best player in this draft': Will Pistons get shot at Tyrese Haliburton?

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Tyrese Haliburton was just getting to the tough part of the conference schedule during his sophomore season, then he had to shut things down.

A fractured left wrist ended his season at Iowa State a few weeks before the pandemic did, and with the success he showed, it was an easy decision to head to the NBA Draft, where he’s projected to be a top-10 pick.

The Pistons, who have the seventh pick, appear to be a good match, having a big need at point guard and Haliburton, at 6-foot-5, one of the best all-around fits with his shooting ability, defense and acuity in the pick-and-roll.

Tyrese Haliburton

There’s one problem: Haliburton likely will be gone by the time the seventh pick rolls around. Some mock drafts have Haliburton being picked as high as fourth or fifth, meaning that the Pistons likely would have to trade up to be in position to get him.

The interest is there, though.

Haliburton said Wednesday that he’s worked out in person for the Pistons, along with the Minnesota Timberwolves (first pick), Golden State Warriors (second) and Chicago Bulls (fourth). That’s somewhat encouraging for the Pistons, but there are other teams that could trade up to other spots to get to Haliburton.

It’s been a dramatic rise for Haliburton, 20, who wasn’t highly regarded heading into the college season, but is regarded for his 3-point shooting (43 percent). As recovered from the wrist injury and prepared for the draft, he’s had some time to break down his game.

“My injury was a little bit of a blessing in disguise, in the sense of being able to really step away from the game of basketball for an extended period of time and look at what I need to work on,” Haliburton said. “Obviously, tightening up my handle, shots off the dribble, finishing at the rim, just a lot of different stuff and being able to step away and look at from the outside in and see where there are holes in my game that I could fix has been really good.”

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The development hasn’t just been this year; between his freshman and sophomore seasons, Haliburton worked on his game to transition from shooting guard to being the primary ballhandler. That was the biggest shift in his game and he answered the call, averaging 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists in 22 games.

Being in a draft class that’s heavy with point guards, including LaMelo Ball, who’s projected to be the No. 1 pick, along with Killian Hayes, R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony shows the depth, but also brings up some questions about how each can distinguish himself.

Not for Haliburton.

“(The difference is) my overall basketball IQ. I'm really a student of the game. I'm really obsessed with it and I spend a lot of time watching film or in the gym or doing something basketball-related. I think that separates me,” Haliburton said. “I really truly feel like I'm the best player in this draft, shooter in this draft, and one of the highest basketball IQs.

“Obviously, I have the confidence in myself and that's what separates me. I'm not the one to make the decisions Nov. 18, so maybe we can have this conversation in a couple of years and see what separates us.”

In a normal offseason, the rookies would have had plenty of time and opportunity to get ready for the start of the season. There would have been Summer League, individual workouts and other time to absorb everything.

During the pandemic, the draft was pushed back five months and the start of the season will come just move than a month after the draft. That will make for some on-the-job training and a quick learning process.

Haliburton says he’s ready.

“I guess it might be a missed development opportunity. Obviously, the summer league and having the summer is usually beneficial, but I think that baptism by fire is the best way to go about it, just throwing us in and seeing if you're ready or not; I think it's going to make or break some people,” he said. “For somebody like me, it's something that I really want to see how the workout is and learning on the fly is really how I learn best. Obviously, it's a different time, but none of us guys knows any better. So, we're just ready for what's thrown at us. We don't really have a choice but to be ready.”

Rod.Beard@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard