The New York Knicks had the No. 8 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, and they used it to select Obi Toppin, a forward who starred at the University of Dayton.
Four picks later, the Sacramento Kings selected Iowa State University product Tyrese Haliburton, who is now seen as one of the best guards in the NBA.
ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith, a huge Knicks fan, recently shared that he tried to tell New York to draft Haliburton in 2020.
“I picked up the phone…and obviously, I know a few members of the Knicks,” Smith said. “I called them personally. I was literally arguing — I ain’t gon’ say no names. They know who they are. I was arguing with them: draft Haliburton. You got Julius Randle. You ain’t gon’ play Obi Toppin but so much. I know the brother’s a skywalker, but damn it, that’s not what you need. You need Haliburton.”
Despite being on the board until the No. 12 overall pick in 2020, Haliburton has developed into one of the best players from his draft class. He has one All-Star selection under his belt and is likely on his way to his second this season, as he’s averaging 26.9 points, 11.9 assists and 4.0 rebounds per game while shooting 52.1 percent from the field and 44.7 percent from deep.
The 23-year-old, who was traded to the Indiana Pacers from the Kings in the 2021-22 season, is certainly giving teams that passed on him plenty of reasons to have regrets.
Meanwhile, Toppin, after starting his career with the Knicks, was also traded to the Pacers, where he now starts alongside Haliburton.
Toppin’s time with the Knicks didn’t exactly meet expectations, with the former lottery pick averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds per game across three seasons with the team. But to his credit, he’s enjoying a career year in his first season with the Pacers, averaging 13.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per contest while shooting 60.5 percent from the field and 36.9 percent on 3s.
The 2020 NBA Draft was an interesting one, with the passage of time helping the basketball world realize that some of the draft’s best players were on the board longer than they probably should have been. In addition to Haliburton going at No. 12, Tyrese Maxey was available until the No. 21 overall pick, and Desmond Bane didn’t go until the No. 30 overall selection.
New York may have some regrets about that draft, but the squad is off to a solid start this season, sitting in the playoff mix in the Eastern Conference with a 12-7 record.