The Haliburton – Sabonis transfer, a winning deal


On February 8, 2022, the Kings shocked the NBA world by parting ways with their nugget Tyrese Haliburton to recover the interior of Indiana Domantas Sabonis. Today, the Sacramento franchise is on track to finally return to the Playoffs, while the Pacers surprise everyone under the leadership of a Haliburton who is having an All-Star caliber season. Almost a year later, can we speak of a real win-win deal?

Transfer Reminder:

  • Direction Indiana for Tyrese Haliburton, Buddy Hield, Tristan Thompson
  • Direction Sacramento for Domantas Sabonis, Justin Holiday, Jeremy Lamb, a choice of 2nd round of Draft 2023

Trade report for the Kings, 11 months later

“The Kings really let go of Tyrese Haliburton?!?!”

This is the refrain that often came up on Twitter on February 8 and the days following the transfer between the Kings and the Pacers. Even if Hali found himself in some rumors at the time, few are those who thought of seeing Sacramento let go of the young leader, author of a very promising start to his career and determined to change the loser culture in Sactown. But the boss of basketball operations Monte McNair, on a mission to allow the Kings to return to the Playoffs after more than 15 years of absence (NBA record), wanted to play the short term and thus decided to send him to Indiana to recover inside 26-year-old Domantas Sabonis, a two-time All-Star in 2020 and 2021.

Today is January 14, 2023, and the Kings are fourth in the Western Conference. with a positive record of 23 wins – 18 losses. If the reasons for this revival are multiple (arrival of the new coach Mike Brown, but also players like Kevin Huerter, Malik Monk and the rookie Keegan Murray), the presence of Sabonis is one of the main ones, he who represents a plate revolving of the best NBA attack through its versatility (19 points, 12 rebounds/best NBA rebounder, 7 assists per game, 61% in shooting including 39% at 3-pointers). An All-Star season which allows the Kings to finally have a real presence inside, and therefore to have a more balanced team which notably benefits a certain De’Aaron Fox.

Having once again possessed all the keys to the attack since the departure of Tyrese Haliburton (the two shared the Kings’ backcourt last year), the Renard shines brightly this season and can legitimately covet a first All-Star selection in career. For coach Mike Brown, the Fox-Sabonis duo deserves to be sent to the All-Star Game given Sacramento’s strong showing this year. It’s hard to question the coach’s words, especially when you see the excitement that once again surrounds this franchise that has been so mocked in recent years.

Trade report for the Pacers, 11 months later

“The Pacers really got Tyrese Haliburton back?!?!”

As soon as the transfer was announced on February 8, 2022, many of us hailed the big blow made by the Indiana franchise. A talented and flashy 22-year-old point guard, with All-Star or even superstar potential, he is typically the kind of player who is untouchable in a transfer. But the Pacers took advantage of the state of emergency in the Californian capital to recover a central piece of their reconstruction. They did not hesitate for a second to let go of Domantas Sabonis despite the talent of the man, the relationship between the latter and the pivot Myles Turner having reached its limits. In addition, the departure of Domas was not really a surprise knowing that Victor Oladipo and Caris LeVert had also been transferred before him, a sign of the new direction taken by Indiana after years of stagnation (5 consecutive eliminations in the Playoffs between 2015 and 2020, no Playoffs in 2021).

Today is January 14, 2023, and the Pacers are seventh in the Eastern Conference. with a record of 23 wins for 20 losses. Undoubtedly, Indiana is one of the biggest surprises of the season, Rick Carlisle’s team defying all the predictions of the beginning of the year when it was announced in the bottom of the rankings. The number one reason behind these pretty results? It’s Haliburton. Even though he is currently in the infirmary for at least two weeks, Tyrese dropped an All-Star caliber first part of the campaign with stats of 20 points (48% shooting, 40% 3-pointers, 88% throwing -francs), 10 assists (best NBA passer) and almost 2 interceptions on average. On top of that, Hali has a great head as a leader, he who has a very popular personality inside the Indiana locker room. The explosion expected at the start of the season in his new colors has therefore taken place, and that should allow him to participate in his first all-star game in Salt Lake City in February.

“Me and Fox, we both have a very good record to hope to make the All-Star Game. We shared the backcourt in Sacramento, especially the second year I started. It’s probably better for both of us not to play together anymore, because we’re both better with the ball in our hands.

– Tyrese Haliburton, via the Woj Pod

The Pacers, who looked like they were going nowhere just a few months ago, now have a real conductor as well as a real project on which to build. Following last year’s complicated campaign (25 wins), Indiana also picked up a big nugget named Ben Mathurin (back who plays off the bench), in the race for the title of Rookie of the Year but also Sixth Man this season. The backcourt of the turfu in Indy, he is there. Buddy Hield, outside starting alongside Haliburton and also arrived at the Pacers in the deal last February, also contributes to the current success of Indiana thanks to his qualities of scorer and sniper, while the pivot Myles Turner – rid of Domantas Sabonis inside – simply having his best career season.

So, a real win-win deal?

Win-win deals in the NBA are pretty rare. In the short term anyway. We see a lot of transfers where one of the two teams immediately benefits from the deal, while the other has to wait several years to reap the benefits, especially via draft picks. Of course, each transfer is different, and there are always several ways to analyze it. But in the case of the Tyrese Haliburton – Domantas Sabonis trade, one thing is certain: both franchises have found what they were looking for. Sacramento is on its way to the Playoffs, Indiana has a face for the new era of the Pacers. Whether individually for the players involved, or collectively for the franchises in question, everyone benefits from this deal one year later.

But to be able to make a complete analysis of this transfer, it will necessarily be necessary to wait a few additional years. If Tyrese Haliburton becomes the best NBA point guard one day, can we really say that the Kings emerged winners from this deal? If Sacramento snaps its terrible streak of no Playoff seasons but accomplishes nothing else behind it, was sending Hali to Indiana to pick up Sabonis really worth it?

For the Pacers, accepting this transfer was obvious given the situation of the franchise and the unexpected possibility of recovering a point guard as promising as Tyrese Haliburton. On the side of the Kings on the other hand, one can always doubt the legitimacy of such a dealand this despite the revival that we see this season under the impetus of the duo De’Aaron Fox – Domantas Sabonis.

As you have understood, the future will bring us more answers. But in the meantime, we can smile in Sacramento as in Indiana.



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