In an era of NBA basketball dominated by versatile big men and dynamic wings, Indiana Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton is fighting his way into the MVP conversation.
While it's only 11 games into their season, the Pacers are looking like a legitimate playoff contender thanks to a 7-4 start and an electric up-tempo offensive attack led by one of the most exciting floor generals the league has seen in years with Haliburton.
While the likes of Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid will (deservedly) be the frontrunners for the 2023-24 MVP award, this early-season stretch from Haliburton is drawing national attention, and it could the start of an MVP-caliber season from the 23-year-old.
Tyrese Haliburton's MVP Resume
The numbers so far for Haliburton are unlike anything any other point guard is doing in the NBA right now. Along with a league-leading 12.5 assists per game, the 23-year-old is scoring with volume and efficiency, averaging 24.7 points per contest while shooting 52.8 percent from the field, 43.6 percent from deep, and 93.2 percent from the charity stripe, putting him in the hunt for the exclusive 50-40-90 club.
While the scoring will draw national attention (and potential MVP voters), it's Haliburton's passing that's turning him into an NBA superstar. Given his current pace, Haliburton would be the first player since John Stockton in the 1994-95 season to average at least 12 assists per game. The former Iowa State standout would also be the first player in NBA history to do so while averaging fewer than 3.0 turnovers per game, highlighting his efficiency and decision making.
It's this efficiency as both a scorer and passer that helped the Pacers split a pair of back-to-back games against a top Philadelphia 76ers team, including a win to go 2-0 in the in-season tournament. During those two games, Haliburton racked up 58 points and 32 assists while turning the ball over zero times, making NBA history in the process.
Tyrese Haliburton had 33 points, 15 assists and 0 turnovers vs 76ers on Tuesday.
He had 25 points, 17 assists and 0 TO vs 76ers on Sunday.
He is the 1st player with 25 points, 15 assists and 0 TO in consecutive games since individual TO were first tracked in 1977-78. pic.twitter.com/l7OKsbT79B
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 15, 2023
Beyond the individual records, statistics, and accolades, it's what Haliburton has done to the identity of the Pacers that warrants MVP discussion. After a blockbuster trade that sent Haliburton to Indiana in exchange for Domantas Sabonis to the Sacramento Kings, the new Pacers point guard has rapidly changed the offensive identity of a franchise that hasn't advanced out of the first round of the playoffs since the 2013-14 season.
As of November 16, the Pacers lead the NBA in several advanced metrics, including offensive rating (122.0), assist-to-turnover ratio (2.40), effective field goal percentage (58.2), and true shooting percentage (61.0). While the team ranks near the bottom in defensive categories, the Pacers have been able to win games thanks to a ferocious tempo and excellent shot making boosted by a floor general in Haliburton that is consistently able to find the open man.
The odds for Haliburton to win the MVP award aren't high at the moment, with DraftKings Sportsbook giving him 60-to-1 odds, the 18th highest among players. However, if the Pacers can continue this red-hot start and continue to rack up wins, then the national outlets and voters will have no choice but to start talking about the electric point guard playing for one of the smallest markets in the NBA.
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