Is Pacers All-Star Tyrese Haliburton The New Steve Nash?

Indiana Pacers All-Star guard Tyrese Haliburton has given the city and the franchise hope. He’s had an excellent start to the season, the Pacers look like a legitimate playoff team, and he could be headed for his first All-NBA honor. His efficiency shooting and playmaking and the way he sees the bigger picture reminds some of Steve Nash.

Haliburton is averaging 24.7 points and 12.5 assists per game on absurd 52/43/93 shooting splits. He has recorded a double-double in nine of his first 10 games and is coming off a record-setting two-game stint in Philadelphia against the 76ers in which he amassed 32 assists and zero turnovers.

His assist to turnover ratio to start the season is nearly 6:1.

Halburton And The Pacers Have Motor

When you watch the Pacers play they have pace (second in the league) and they play with a sense of joy, and that’s also because of Haliburton. His willingness to pass ahead and have a handle on who needs touches when, and how to keep everyone involved is the hallmark of a great team leader, which historically has been a point guard.

Like Nash’s “Seven Seconds or Less” Phoenix Suns, Haliburton and Nash control the basketball and the flow of the game. Both players like tempo and a state of constant flow.

Today’s positionless game means that a point guard is not always your best player and/or team leader. In that sense, Haliburton is something of a throwback. But he has the pulse of his team and they trust in him.

“There’s responsibility there — responsibility outside of wins and losses, about keeping the team psyche balanced,” Nash said to The Ringer when discussing Haliburton. “Whether that’s taking responsibility for losses, whether that’s keeping the guys light, loose, or calm. Sometimes it’s showing that there’s a passion to win, that the level is not acceptable right now. That’s kind of a part of it, too. You’re the one who’s gonna have to talk. You’re the one who’s gonna have to talk to the press, and take responsibility in that way as well. You have to make sure the moment’s not too big, or that you recognize the energy’s not high enough, or whatever it is. That’s more intense when you are the face of the franchise.”

The Pacers signed Haliburton to a five-year, $260 million max extension this summer. He is the face of the franchise. They have empowered him to do what he does best and he’s grabbed ahold of it and run. Free agent signee Bruce Brown, sixth man Buddy Hield, talented young athlete Obi Toppin and veteran big man Myles Turner all follow Haliburton’s lead and are happy to do so.

Elite Play Led By A Person Guys Want To Play With

“When someone calls you and recruits you to a team,” Brown says of Haliburton, “it’s a different feeling.”

“I play a style of basketball that people want to play,” said Haliburton. “I think that’s part of the reason why they signed me to the deal they signed me to. I’ve got long-term stability here because they know that I can help bring people here — not only with who I am as a basketball player, but who I am as a person.”

Unlike Nash, Haliburton doesn’t have a player who can score the way prime Amar’e Stoudemire could, so he has to score more. That balance between scoring and facilitating and when to do it is a tightrope all primary ballhandlers who are elite scorers have to walk.

He’s only 23 and this is the beginning of his fourth season in the NBA, but it looks like the sky’s the limit.

The Pacers should have a top-10 offense all season. They still struggle defensively, but Haliburton’s ability to initiate good offense late in games will mitigate that some. They should finish top six in the Eastern Conference, guaranteeing a playoff berth.

They have a lot of development and areas to address, too many to be a serious contender. But you have to crawl before you walk. Win 45-50 regular season games routinely and qualify for the playoffs.

Use that up-tempo style to wreak havoc during the In-Season Tournament. The Pacers are 2-0 in group play, develop a winning culture and mindset. More success will follow.

If Haliburton is the leader and he continues to set that example by continually demanding more of himself, the rest will follow.

Back to top