In the wake of an electrifying performance throughout November, Indiana Pacers’ guard Tyrese Haliburton has emerged as a standout force on the basketball court. Leading the Indiana Pacers to an In-Season Tournament quarterfinals birth has propelled him into discussions as the primary contender for the In-Season Tournament MVP.
However, as we delve deeper into the statistics and witness the impact he has had on the Pacers, there is a compelling argument to be made—Tyrese Haliburton’s stellar play may not only position him as a tournament MVP front-runner but also catapult him into the realm of serious consideration for the prestigious title of the league’s Most Valuable Player.
Before even getting into team impact, Haliburton’s numbers alone are a marvel to run through. This season, Haliburton is averaging career-highs in points (27) and assists (11.8) while shooting 51.9% from the field and 44.7% from three. This stat line vaulted him into historic company as he joined only Michael Jordan and LeBron James as the only players to average 25+ points and 10+ assists while shooting 50% from the field and 40% from three for an entire month.
But it goes deeper than that.
Haliburton’s 11.8 assists lead the league right now, and his 27 points a game is coming off a mere 26.2% usage rate. For context, that ranks 55 in the league, just behind Charlotte Hornets guard Terry Rozier (26.3%). This means he is putting up All-Star-level numbers while having the usage rate of a role player/mid-tier starter.
To take it further, that 44.7% shooting from three should not be taken lightly either. Haliburton is taking 8.8 threes a game, which is a career-high and also tied for the 5th most per game with Desmond Bane. But what makes these shooting splits special is that it may be the most efficient high-volume three-point shooting season in NBA history by a player not named Stephen Curry.
For example, Damian Lillard has averaged eight or more three-point attempts 11 times in his career. Yet, his career-best three-point shooting percentage was 40.1% during the 2019-20 season. Klay Thompson has taken eight or more threes four times in his career, and his highest percentage was 42.5% during the 2015-16 season. Those are two of the best non-Curry shooters in the game, and Haliburton is on pace to have a more efficient shooting season than either of them has ever had from beyond the arc.
All of this is to say that Haliburton is on pace to have one of the most efficient scoring seasons in NBA history as a player more known for his passing than his scoring ability.
Now, let’s get into team impact.
Despite not having a single other All-Star caliber scoring option, the Indiana Pacers have the highest-scoring offense in the league (128.8), play with the fastest pace (104.2), and have the highest-rated offense in the NBA (123.6). They also are first in assists and top 5 in both two-point percentage (60.2%) and three-point percentage (38.4%).
Again, this is happening on an Indiana Pacers team where the second-leading scorer is Myles Turner (16.6 ppg), who has made a name for himself as an elite rim defender. Not to mention that with this run-and-gun playstyle led by Haliburton, Indiana has eight players averaging double-digit points, with four of them shooting 60% or better from inside the arc. This mainly comes from easy baskets in transition and great synergy in the halfcourt.
But the most alarming stat was Haliburton’s on/off numbers. According to Cleaning the Glass, with Haliburton on the floor, the Pacers play like a 53-win team, averaging 127.7 points per 100 possessions. That would rank amongst the best offenses in NBA history. But when he is off the floor, they play like a 27-win team, averaging 117.4 points per 100 possessions.
That’s all just a fancy way to use numbers to say that Haliburton’s presence on the floor raises them from being a team at the bottom of the standings to a team capable of sitting atop the Eastern Conference. Talk about an exponential swing.
The biggest obstacle in Haliburton’s way will likely be his team’s record. One recurring factor when determining the MVP is team success. Aside from outlier years like Nikola Jokic’s 2021-22 MVP season or Russell Westbrook’s 2016-17 season, where their respective teams finished 6th in the conference, there aren’t many instances where the MVP winner plays for a team that isn’t at least a top 3 seed.
Ironically, the Pacers currently are 6th in the Eastern Conference at the moment. But similar to Jokic and Westbrook, there is a narrative here that could drive home Haliburton’s case. Young 23-year-old point guard leads the storied franchise to a historical offensive season as the sole All-Star with the chance to become the inaugural In-Season Tournament MVP and take the Pacers back to the postseason for the first time in four years. Sounds like a strong story, right?
Haliburton is surely facing an uphill battle with candidates like Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Luka Doncic in the mix. But with such an unprecedented start to a season full of parity, Haliburton has the chance to do something special by becoming the post-merger Pacer to win the MVP.
Hi there! My name is Jalon Dixon, but most people just call me Jay. As an aspiring, young sports writer and podcaster, I enjoy discussing sports (mainly basketball and football) and sharing my knowledge with others. Growing up right in the middle of Towson University, Morgan State, Goucher College and others, I have gotten the chance to learn so much about a handful of the different athletic teams that thrive here in Baltimore. I want to be the voice of local fans and teams that may not get the same spotlight as others, but still play a big part in our everyday lives. My motto is “Always Embrace Conversation,” so if you ever want to give me feedback on a piece or even just have a friendly sports debate, feel free to email me! Hope you enjoy my work and maybe even learn something along the way.