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An hour before the Indiana Pacers took on the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 1, Andrew Nembhard was lounging at his locker and trying to come up with a way to describe Tyrese Haliburton's passing skills. 

"Creative," he said at first, before amending it. "Diabolical," he continued, "in the way he dissects the defense." Jarace Walker, the Pacers' rookie big man, couldn't help but start laughing from the next locker over. "Diabolical?" he asked in disbelief. 

Nembhard's word choice may have been unconventional, but it was befitting the unique style that has catapulted Haliburton to stardom. His jump passes are expressly forbidden by every youth basketball coach in the country, he stares down defenders while setting up no-look feeds and, when he's really feeling it, he'll skip away in glee after leaving opponents clueless. 

For the season, Haliburton is dishing out a league-leading 12.7 assists per game, which has him on track to become the sixth player ever to average 12 assists, and the first since John Stockton in 1995. When Haliburton recorded a career-high and franchise-record-tying 23 assists in a win over the Knicks on Dec. 30, he joined Stockton and Magic Johnson as the only players in NBA history with consecutive 20-point, 20-assist games. 

"Some guys have the ability to deliver the ball [in a way] that creates a confidence in the guy they're throwing it to," Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle said. "Tyrese has that natural gift." 

No matter how good your passes are, assists are only possible if your teammates make shots, a fact Haliburton is well aware of. But what about those teammates? What is Haliburton's genius like from their perspective? 

Here's what seven of Haliburton's teammates told CBS Sports about playing alongside their All-Star point guard. 

'Shit, he's artistic, man'

Haliburton has thrown more assists to Myles Turner than any other Pacer this season. Ninety-two of his 380, to be exact. The big man's favorite came against the Chicago Bulls on Dec. 27, when Haliburton fired a no-look laser through traffic for an and-one slam. 

"Shit, he's artistic, man," Turner said. "It's easy to have a 1950s style, boom-boom but he adds flair to all his stuff. He paints a canvas out there."

The most impressive aspect of Haliburton's ingenuity is that it comes organically within the flow of the offense. "He makes it flashy, but it's the right play every time," Bennedict Mathurin said. Haliburton has more turnover-free games (six) than games with five or more turnovers (two) and his 5.00 assist-to-turnover ratio is the best among players with at least a 25% usage rate.  

"The guy is just, the way he sees the floor and the way he's able to put the other four guys in position to succeed, he does it at the highest level," TJ McConnell said. "In a way, he almost manipulates the defense to get what he wants, and that's what the best guards in this league do. He does it effortlessly."

'You always gotta be ready' 

The Pacers' 294.8 passes and 30.7 assists per game rank sixth and first in the league, respectively. That unselfish play is a main driver behind their historic 122.5 offensive rating, which has them on pace to record the most efficient offensive season in NBA history. 

Haliburton accounts for 73.3 of them each night, which is more than every player in the league besides Nikola Jokic. All told that's 2,199 passes, and neither Nembhard nor Aaron Nesmith could single out one from the bunch. Both, however, touched on a key aspect of Haliburton's brilliance, one that makes him and the Pacers so difficult to defend. 

"You always need to be aware," Nesmith said. "He'll know you're open before you know you're open sometimes. He's got that read on the game."

"Every time he has the ball, you always gotta be ready to catch it because it could be coming at any time," Nembhard added. "When your star player is so willing to move the ball like that it creates an easier space for team success because everybody is willing to play for each other."

Haliburton, for the record, is aware there's been some internet debate about whether he throws true no-look passes or just look-aways. Either way, they're helping his team win. 

"I think we feed off the energy," Haliburton said. "A nice pass is the same as a nice highlight dunk or a charge or something, those are plays that affect the game and change the momentum of games."

'Super fun'

Few players rely more on their point guards than rim-running big men like Isaiah Jackson, who has carved out a role on the Pacers' bench thanks to his hustle and efficient finishing around the basket. 

It's little surprise, then, that it's been "super fun" for Jackson to play with someone like Haliburton. "He has his own game," Jackson said. "It's just Tyrese." Jackson is shooting a career-high 80.0% within three feet, thanks in part to Haliburton's ability to create easy baskets like this one against the Rockets on Dec. 26. 

"That was dope to get one from him," Jackson said. "I think that was my first one this season from him lob-wise."

Likewise, the bouncy, always-willing-to-run Obi Toppin has found a perfect fit in Indiana alongside Haliburton, and you could create a highlight reel just from their connections so far this season. Of the 63 assists Haliburton has handed out to Toppin, 43 of them have led to finishes at the rim. 

There was the full-court dime that Toppin finished with a reverse slam in the In-Season Tournament semifinals and the time they combined to put Tyrese Maxey on a poster, but nothing has been as memorable as the alley-oop to close out the first half of their win over the Hornets on Dec. 20. 

"The lob I threw to Obi against Charlotte. I low picked up at the 3-point line and kinda double-pumped and threw an underhand lob, that's probably my favorite this year," Haliburton said. 

That was the first one that came to mind for Toppin as well: "That was tough. He had a decision to make in the air. He coulda thrown it out but he threw it up."

Haliburton led all Eastern Conference guards in the first round of fan voting returns for the All-Star Game and is almost certain to make his first start in the showcase in front of his hometown fans next month. His first All-NBA honor will likely follow at the end of the season. 

Toppin, though, doesn't need to wait for any official recognition. He knows where his partner in crime stands among playmakers. 

"The best," Toppin said. "He's definitely the best passer in the game right now."