The NBA is a league defined by transactions and star-power. Think about it. News of where players are traded to, or where they are drafted, ultimately become the biggest storylines. Damian Lillard getting traded to the Milwaukee Bucks and Victor Wembanyama being selected #1 overall by the San Antonio Spurs were headlines far bigger than any NBA game so far this season.

Onto the second point, star-power defines a league whose Mount Rushmore of stars, so to speak, are LeBron James, Steph Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo, and Nikola Jokić, in whatever order you want to put them. While he's more-than-likely not going to unseat any of those giants for some time, Tyrese Haliburton of the Indiana Pacers is worth paying attention to — particularly if you're from Iowa.

The 6'5'' point guard for the Pacers has become a force to be reckoned with over the (still young) NBA season. The Pacers entered the season with modest expectations, but Haliburton has made them impossible not to notice. Haliburton helped galvanize the Pacers, helping them go undefeated in the newly incepted NBA In-Season Tournament.

Unfortunately, the Pacers fell to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Cup, but Haliburton's accomplishments cannot be understated.

Photo Credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Haliburton's play throughout the Tournament was eye-popping: 26.7 points, 13.3 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 52.4% in field goals, and 42.5% from three. He's been extremely reliable with assists, spreading the ball around to his teammates and getting everyone involved, most notably in defeating the favored Milwaukee Bucks to get to the NBA Cup.

A Milwaukee native, Haliburton's ascension in the NBA was predated by his two-year campaign at Iowa State. As a freshman, Haliburton set the Cyclones' single-game assists record, and went on to be named to the second team All-Big 12 conference his sophomore year (in spite of a season-ending wrist injury too).

Following his sophomore season, Haliburton entered the 2020 NBA Draft, where he was selected 12th overall by the Sacramento Kings. He'd go on to finish third in Rookie of the Year voting and spend two seasons with the Kings before being included in a multi-player trade with Indiana.

The trade would ultimately work out for the Kings in the long-run, as they got players who were instrumental in helping snap their 16-season long playoff drought. One of those players who would make an impact was former Iowa Hawkeye Keegan Murray, whom the Kings selected in the 2022 NBA Draft.

Furthermore, Zach Harper and Shams Charania of The Athletic noted something truly special about Haliburton's recent play in the NBA In-Season Tournament:

  • Prior to 2023-24, there have been seven instances of a player posting an assist rate over 35 percent with a turnover rate under 11 percent in a season. Gary Payton did it four times.
  • Haliburton is doing that with an assist rate over 45 percent. Nobody has ever done that.  He’s doing it while averaging 26.9 points per game and flirting with 50-40-90 shooting splits. - per The Athletic
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images
Photo Credit: Ethan Miller, Getty Images

Although Haliburton and the Pacers fell to the Lakers in the first-ever NBA Cup, nobody should be writing him nor Indiana off so quickly. This is uncharted territory for a player who appears to just be getting started. Furthermore, Iowa can claim Tyrese Haliburton as one of their own, much like they have with Brock Purdy, Caitlin Clark, Sam LaPorta, and more breakout athletes as of late.

Iowa Born Sports Stars

What do each of these stellar athletes have in common? They all hail from the Hawkeye State.

Gallery Credit: Johnny Marks

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