The Whiteboard: Tyrese Haliburton, the NBA’s interception king

Tyrese Haliburton is breaking new ground with his assist stats this season. But don’t overlook what he’s doing on defense for the Indiana Pacers.

Tyrese Haliburton is having a remarkable season for the surprising Indiana Pacers, pushing himself into all sorts of outlier statistical territory.

His assist to Andrew Nembhard on the game-winning 3-pointer against the Lakers Monday night gave him a total of 40 assists and 0 turnovers over his past three games, an NBA first. He’s leading the league in assist percentage, at 52.4 percent, and is on track to become just the seventh player in NBA history to finish a qualified season with an assist percentage above 50 — the other six are John Stockton, James Harden, Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Russell Westbrook and Steve Nash.

His assists may be the most instantly striking aspect of his statistical profile but he’s also averaging 19.9 points per game and within striking distance of joining the 50/40/90 club. Through 20 games, all else being equal, turning just three missed free throws, three missed 3-pointers and five missed 2-pointers into makes would put him over those thresholds.

But for today, I want to focus on an almost unbelievable quirk to Haliburton’s steal totals.

No one in the NBA picks off passes like Tyrese Haliburton

So far this season, Haliburton is averaging 1.8 steals per game, fifth-most in the league. And over his three seasons in the NBA, he is second in total steals (247), behind only Dejounte Murray. In play-by-play logs, steals are classified as either Lost Ball Steals (poking the ball away from a dribbler) or Bad Pass Steals (intercepting an errant pass). The graph below shows the top 500 players in minutes played over the past three seasons with their steals separated out by type.

Haliburton isn’t just an outlier in his total number of steals, he is on a complete island in terms of the percentage of his steals that come from picking off opponents’ passes. Of the 51 players with at least 150 total steals over the past three seasons, just 14 have had 70 percent or more of their steals come from intercepted passes. Haliburton is the only player above 80 percent.

Haliburton’s size (6-foot-5) and wingspan (6-foot-8) are clearly a factor floating in space around the point of attack. But he also has a fantastic awareness of where passing angles are will materialize as plays develop.

It also seems fair to wonder if this skill and awareness can be connected to his own abilities as a passer. He is so good at seeing these angles and knowing where space will open up as an offensive player that he can see the mirror image of on defense.

One of the other upshots of this imbalance, generating steals off passes rather than direct pressure on a ball-handler, is that he avoids a lot of needless fouls. Of the 15 players with at least 200 steals over the past three seasons, Haliburton, Jimmy Butler and Delon Wright are the only three with more steals than fouls.

Putting all the pieces together, we have a picture of Haliburton that is every bit as unique as his offensive contributions and with a two-way foundation that has to make the Pacers feel incredibly optimistic about both their present and future.

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Luka’s big night overshadows problems for the Mavs

Luka Doncic helped lead the Mavericks to a crucial win over the Golden State Warriors, 116-113. However, his third 40-point triple-double of the season helped save his team from some of their structural problems. Here’s what you need to know:

  • A subtle slide: Over their last 10 games, the Mavericks are 4-6, getting outscored by an average of 0.9 points per 100 possessions.
  • Frustration is growing with Jason Kidd: Christian Wood has already alluded to frustration about his lack of playing time and inconsistent rotations. He played just 14 minutes in the second half.
  • Struggling shooters: Tim Hardaway Jr. showed up against the Warriors, hitting 5-of-11 from beyond the arc. Wood, Reggie Bullock, Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith were a combined 1-of-16 from beyond the arc. As a team, they rank 20th in the league in 3-point percentage.
  • Doncic’s enormous load: Luka Doncic is still carrying an almost unprecedented amount of offensive responsibility, ranked second in the league in assist percentage and second in usage rate. He’s drawing a ton more fouls this season and the Mavs have to be concerned about wearing him down over the course of the season.

Jonathan Kuminga shows up

After a strong rookie season, Jonathan Kuminga has struggled to find his footing this season, at times dropping out of the Warriors’ rotation and drawing criticism for his effort and attention. But he may have turned a corner against Luka Doncic and the Mavs. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Kuminga’s best game of the year: Against Dallas, Kuminga put up 14 points, 10 rebounds and 2 blocks on 6-of-8 shooting. The Warriors outscored the Mavericks by 21 points in the 25 minutes he was on the court.
  • Praise from Steve Kerr“Best game I’ve ever seen JK play. Everything he did contributed to making an impact on winning. His defense on Luka was fantastic. He was disciplined, he stayed down, he challenged shots, he had a couple of blocks, he stayed patient offensively.”

Denise T. Jones

Denise T. Jones is a passionate sports enthusiast with a knack for capturing the electrifying essence of the sporting world. As a dedicated sports news writer for, Denise brings her unparalleled love for sports and her adept storytelling skills to deliver captivating and insightful content to readers worldwide. With a keen eye for detail and a deep understanding of various sports disciplines, Denise ensures that her articles provide comprehensive coverage of the latest events, matches, and developments in the sports realm. Whether it's the thrill of the game-winning goal, the drama of a nail-biting finish, or the heartwarming stories of triumph against all odds, Denise encapsulates it all with eloquence and precision. Denise's journey in sports journalism has been marked by her unwavering commitment to accuracy, integrity, and excellence. Her ability to blend statistical analysis with compelling narratives sets her apart as a trusted voice in the industry. From the adrenaline-pumping action on the field to the strategic maneuvers off it, Denise brings every aspect of the sporting world to life through her writing. With a finger on the pulse of the sports scene, Denise T. Jones continues to inspire and inform readers with her dynamic and engaging sports coverage on

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