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NBA Draft 2020

NBA Draft 2020: Tyrese Haliburton is the most overlooked prospect of the 2020 draft class

In a draft class that has been criticized more than acclaimed, some of the surface-level interest may begin and end with the names that you've grown familiar with.

Anthony Edwards, LaMelo Ball, James Wiseman, Deni Avdija - these are all names that have become common among fans preparing for the 2020 NBA Draft. While the potential is high for the foursome, there are still doubts among which prospect is the clear No. 1 selection.

They'll likely go in some order among the first four or five picks with the chance of a few others sliding into that mix, but there's still one prospect whose name isn't being mentioned in the top-five pick conversation leading up to the draft. While this player likely won't end up among the top-five, we could find ourselves asking a few years down the road... why?

Enter Iowa State guard Tyrese Haliburton.

Standing at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, the long and versatile prospect is a consensus lottery-pick projection, but where he falls in the lottery varies. While I have him as high as pick No. 6 in my latest Mock Draft, NBA.com's other draft expert Eric Fawcett has Haliburton falling outside of the top-10. And that's been consistently inconsistent across mock draft boards among various sites that have tried to properly place the 20-year-old sophomore.

MORE: This year's draft class has a different type of potential

"I hope we can - a year from now, two years from now - we can go revisit it and, we'll see what people have to say about where I should have been (drafted)," Haliburton told ESPN's draft expert Mike Schmitz.

He's used to being glossed over, though. Coming out of high school, Haliburton was a three-star recruit, unranked by ESPN's Top 100 list. He never played for a big-named AAU program and only received interest from a handful of high-major schools.

Building momentum off of an impressive 2019-20 campaign where he averaged 15.2 points, 6.5 assists, 5.9 rebounds and 2.5 steals per game while shooting 50.4% from the field and 41.9% from 3, he's finally commanded some of the spotlight as one of the top prospects in this draft class, but even with an impressive stat line like that, he only cracked the Big 12's All-Conference Second Team.

The list of high-major players that have done what he did in averaging over 15 points, six assists and two steals per game while shooting over 40% from 3 as an underclassman - isn't very long. Haliburton joins Duke's Jay Williams (No. 2 pick in 2000 NBA Draft) and Wake Forest's Chris Paul (No. 4 pick in 2005 NBA Draft) as the only players to ever do it.

When you add to it that Haliburton shot over 50% from the field, his name stands alone under that criteria.

MORE: NBA player comparisons for top draft prospects

So how is it that a prospect with his measurables and skill can't crack the top-five in a lesser draft class? It's a question I'm still trying to find an answer to myself.

Some of the knocks on Haliburton's game is that he's not an incredibly explosive athlete and that he needs to improve as a shot creator, as he can be a bit stiff as a dribbler at times, specifically in the halfcourt. He also has an unorthodox jump shot, which doesn't help the fluidity of his shots off the dribble.

[Video courtesy of FIBA: Tyrese Haliburton at the U19 FIBA World Cup in 2019]

While this is by no means to say that Haliburton is a perfect and flawless prospect, I'd argue that he has sneaky athleticism, which you see when he gets out in transition. While his shot release is unconventional, he still converted over 40% of his 3-point attempts in each of his seasons at Iowa State and hit 82% of his free throws last year.

Other criticism suggests that he's too skinny and avoids contact around the basket, but he has fantastic touch on floaters once he gets into the paint and uses his length to score around defenders. Once his body fills out, he'll only have an easier time finishing at the rim.

The above tools work toward boosting his case as a combo guard in the NBA - he should have no problem playing off-ball even with an unpolished skillset in some of those areas - but his playmaking is far and away his most redeeming quality as a player.

Haliburton uses elite court vision and a high basketball IQ to consistently make the right reads in the halfcourt. He's a creative passer who can use both hands to zip the ball to open teammates.

He's already a quality pick-and-roll ballhandler off of natural talent and instinct, which is particularly impressive because last season was the first of his college career where offence ran through him in that role. It shows that there is plenty of room to grow in that important aspect of a floor general's game, and when he gets to the next level where the majority of teams in the league utilize pick-and-rolls early and often, he'll only get better as a playmaker through a high number of reps and familiarity.

When it's time to get going downhill in the open floor, Haliburton is at his best. He turns into a different type of player in transition, embracing a showtime-type personality to deceive defenders and find the easiest possible bucket.

[Video courtesy of FIBA: Tyrese Haliburton at the U19 FIBA World Cup in 2019]

"That's when you can really have fun with your teammates," Haliburton told ESPN's Schmitz about playing in transition. That's not necessarily something you'll always hear from a player - talking about giving up the ball in advantageous situations in the open court - but that's just the type of player that Haliburton is.

Defensively, he knows how to use his size to disrupt opponents on-ball, while his anticipation and long arms help him play passing lanes off-ball. Where growing into his body would help with physicality on that end of the floor, his instincts and willingness to dig in on defence are already embedded.

In my Mock Draft, I compared Haliburton to Lonzo Ball because of their mirrored similarities as playmakers and, of course, their irregular jump shots. Ball was also a consistent scorer in his one season at UCLA, averaging 14.6 points per game and shooting 55.1% from the field and 41.2% from 3. He, too, was said to be too thin and that it would affect him in the NBA but it didn't take long for him to bulk up and become a strong perimeter defender.

While Ball hasn't fully panned out three seasons into his NBA career, he's still a promising young talent and was selected 2nd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft.

When we look back at this draft class in a few years, I think we'll question why Haliburton wasn't selected earlier than wherever he ends up on draft night.

It's hard to call a potential top-10 pick underrated, so I'll say Tyrese Haliburton is the most overlooked prospect of the 2020 draft class.

The views on this page do not necessarily represent the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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