Former NBA All-Star Calls Pacers Guard a ‘Wannabe’

 Former Minnesota Timberwolve and NBA All-Star Wally Szczerbiak called Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton a “Wannabe all-star” in a post-game breakdown after last night’s game between the New York Knicks and Pacers. This article will review Szczerbiak’s analysis and ask ourselves, is Tyrese Haliburton an All-Star?

Former NBA All-Star Calls Pacers Guard a ‘Wannabe’

What Did Wally Say?

Following a hard-fought, 109-106 Knicks victory over the Pacers, Knicks analyst and former sixth overall pick Wally Szczerbiak provided commentary over the game’s highlights. At one point in the broadcast, Szczerbiak referred to Pacers point guard Tyrese Haliburton as a “Wannabe, fake All-Star.”

For full context, Szczerbiak was commenting on Haliburton’s stepback three-point attempt with 14 seconds remaining in the game. The ten-year veteran turned analyst would say, “Mr. supposed wannabe, fake All-Star, with the big miss there.” 

“Last chance, down three for the wannabe All-Star. Let me keep it that way.” Szczerbiak continued as the highlights ended. “He’s in his second year. He’s a very good player. He’s not going to make the All-Star team. A guy like Julius Randle or Jalen Brunson will make it over Tyrese Haliburton, and tonight we saw why.” 

Honest Criticism or Knicks Propoganda?

Before we dive in, it should be noted that Haliburton is in the third year of his career, as was Szczerbiak in his lone NBA All-Star season. In that 2001-02 season, the former Miami Redhawk averaged 18.7 points, 4.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.8 steals, and 2.2 turnovers per game. Compare that to Haliburton’s current third-year statistics, averaging 19.5 points, 10.7 assists, four rebounds, 1.7 steals, and 2.7 turnovers per game. On top of the double-double, Haliburton is putting up those numbers despite playing five fewer minutes per game on average. It seems reasonable that if Szczerbiak could make an All-Star team with his stat line, Haliburton surely cannot be a fraud.

It’s possible that this is merely Szczerbiak leaning into an old rivalry in an attempt to go viral. If that’s the case, it seems to have worked. The clip of the former forward’s comments is being posted on Twitter and YouTube, with many questioning the need for Szczerbiak’s sharp take. 

Haliburton vs. Brunson: Who’s an NBA All-Star?

Looking into Szczerbiak’s argument, he mentions two Knicks specifically as players that will get selected ahead of Haliburton. Those players are Julius Randle and Jalen Brunson. Randle is a difficult comparison since he is a front-court player, not a point guard. He is averaging nearly a double-double himself, and at this point, one can also argue for his spot on the NBA All-Star squad. 

Let’s look at Brunson since this is a better comparison for Haliburton. Brunson is currently averaging 20.8 points, 6.2 assists, 3.2 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 2.1 turnovers per game in roughly 32 minutes of action. Haliburton is beating Brunson in rebounds, steals, and assists per game. The turnover rate is nearly identical but leans in Brunson’s favor slightly. He is also averaging over one point more per game than Haliburton. It’s difficult to call Brunson the front-runner based on these stats. Perhaps the shooting splits can shed more light. 

Haliburton is shooting 47% from the floor on 15 attempts per game. He is averaging seven three-point attempts per contest and connects on 38.5 %of those. Haliburton also shoots 54.9% on two-point shots and 87.6% from the charity stripe. Compare this to Brunson’s 46.9% on 15.8 field goal attempts per game. He is hitting 37.3% of his 4.2 three-pointers per game. Brunson is also shooting 50.4% on two-pointers and 89.3% on free throws. 

The Last Word on Haliburton

The point of the previous exercise was merely to point out that claiming Brunson is far and away a better point guard than Haliburton right now is untrue. Both are great players, and nothing should be taken from either. That’s why it was so disappointing to see a former player calling a rising star a ‘supposed, wannabe, fake All-Star.’ 

At least the next Pacers-Knicks game will be must-watch television. NBA All-Star voting begins this week.