Nov. 18, 2020 is a memorable moment in Kings history. It’s the night that Tyrese Haliburton slid down the draft board and fell in the Kings’ lap with the No. 12 overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
In a recent taping of Kings Central on NBC Sports California, general manager Monte McNair discussed draft night and the team’s reaction to Haliburton falling.
“We had even been trying to move up and secure him,” McNair said. “When he ultimately fell to No. 12, obviously you never know how it will turn out, but in that moment, we were extremely excited.”
Exactly how excited were the Kings?
“I think we may have made a record-setting quick call to the league to lock that pick in,” McNair said. “Like I said, he’s even exceeded those expectations and we had very high expectations of him through all of our draft prep and everything.”
It was a huge moment for McNair in his first draft running the Kings, and by all accounts, he hit a home run in selecting the Iowa State star. The rookie guard plays with a maturity well beyond his years and that is without having a standard offseason to prep for the rigors of the NBA.
“We were very confident he was going to be a solid NBA player, we didn’t know it would happen this quickly, and certainly that he’s exceeded those expectations is amazing,” McNair said.
Before injuring his knee in a win over the Dallas Mavericks earlier this month, Haliburton was having a tremendous season. He took home back-to-back Western Conference Rookie of the Month awards and when he went down, he was having a breakout stretch filling in for De’Aaron Fox at point guard.
He likely won’t play again this season due to a hyperextension in his left knee, but before going out, he was averaging 13 points, 5.3 assists, three rebounds and 1.3 steals in 30 minutes per game.
If his season is over, Haliburton will have played in 58 games, including 20 starts. He shot an impressive 47.2 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from 3-point range and he looks like the long-term backcourt partner for Fox moving forward.
While the expectations for Haliburton were met in Year 1 and only are going to increase moving forward, the same could be said for McNair and his staff. McNair wouldn’t confirm the rumors that Haliburton and the Kings orchestrated his draft-night fall, but the bar has been set very high for McNair moving forward.
“It’s a good problem to have,” McNair said. “I don’t think that we or the rest of our staff expect that, but we also do have confidence that we’ll be able to find guys that fit into what we’re building here, whether it’s later in the draft, through free agency, trade and all of those things.”
It’s a shame that Haliburton is expected to miss the remainder of the season, but he didn’t do major structural damage to his knee and the Kings are confident he will get to work through the full summer program with the team in preparation for a very important sophomore season.