Boisterous ESPN analyst Stephen A. Smith is blasting his beloved New York Knicks for passing on Kings rookie Tyrese Haliburton in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft.
Smith made his opinion very clear during Wednesday’s episode of “SportsCenter with Stephen A. Smith.” Smith said the Knicks should have drafted Haliburton with the No. 8 pick instead of Obi Toppin, and did so in trademark Stephen A-style during a segment entitled “Oh, No You Didn’t!”
“Rookie Tyrese Haliburton, who the New York Knicks should have drafted instead of Obi Toppin, dropping 15 points in the fourth quarter last night, hitting a late-game dagger to help win the game for the Sacramento Kings,” Smith said, referring to a recent win over the Chicago Bulls. “That’s Tyrese Haliburton. This brother can ball. Shooting about 50 percent from 3-point range. The brother is special. That’s who the New York Knicks should have drafted. Oh, no you didn’t draft someone other than Tyrese Haliburton, New York Knicks. Oh, no you didn’t!”
Haliburton has emerged as one of the early leaders in the Rookie of the Year race after falling to the Kings at No. 12, a selection that has been lauded as the biggest steal in the draft. The Iowa State product is averaging 12.1 points, 5.3 assists, 2.7 rebounds and 1.3 steals per game. He is shooting 52% from the field and 50% from 3-point range. He has been just as efficient as a ball handler and playmaker with season totals of 48 assists and nine turnovers.
Toppin appeared in only one game before suffering a calf injury, posting nine points, three rebounds and two blocked shots in a season-opening loss to the Indiana Pacers. Toppin made 3 of 7 from 3-point range but was held to 3-of-12 shooting from the field. Toppin was cleared to return but played only 57 seconds in Wednesday’s 116-109 loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Smith had an emotional reaction on draft night after the Knicks selected Toppin. Even then, Smith was howling about Haliburton, although he said he still had trust in Knicks president Leon Rose and executive vice president William Wesley.
“Damn, damn, damn,” Smith said in a video posted on Twitter. “Toppin is show time. It’s box office. In the open court, watching him dunk, I get it, but how many forwards can you have if you’re the New York Knicks? How many forwards can you have? I needed a guard. Haliburton has a 7-foot wingspan. About 6-6, 6-7. Can shoot. Can handle. Can defend. IQ. I believe in World Wide Wes. I believe in Leon Rose. I’m gonna calm down, but my initial reaction, to be honest, is damn, damn, damn.”