What if the Cavs had drafted Haliburton instead of Okoro?

Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images
Tyrese Haliburton, Indiana Pacers and Isaac Okoro, Cleveland Cavaliers. Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images /
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Isaac Okoro, Auburn Tigers and Tyrese Haliburton, Iowa State Cyclones. Photo by Todd Kirkland/Getty Images /

Entering the 2020 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers were in the depth of their rebuild. At that point, they were coming off of consecutive 19-win seasons and didn’t yet have confidence that any players on the roster would develop into stars.

What they did know was their last two lottery picks, Darius Garland and Collin Sexton, were both small guards and unlikely to become defensive aces. That likely influenced the Cavs in their selection of Isaac Okoro, a wing out of Auburn who had a lot of raw offensive talent but looked like perhaps the best defensive prospect in the draft.

The Cleveland Cavaliers drafted Isaac Okoro fifth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft. How would things change if they had drafted Tyrese Haliburton instead?

Okoro has had an up-and-down start to his career. He has started most of the games he has appeared in, at small forward his rookie year and primarily shooting guard last season. Defensively he has been very good, although not the kind of difference-maker a player like Evan Mobley was as a rookie. The offense? That has come along a lot more slowly, a collection of nascent skills compounded by a reluctance to shoot.

As the Cavs are building a team ready to compete, Okoro may be a part of the plan, but he is not looked at as a future starter. Even in a somewhat weak draft, he isn’t worthy of the fifth overall pick and may find himself outside of the lottery in a redraft.

What if the Cavs had drafted another player with the fifth pick? After the “top three” of Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman and Anthony Edwards, every draft board was different in ranking the next group of players. We won’t blame the Cavs for not uncovering Desmond Bane – nearly every team passed him by as he dropped to 30th.

But a number of other players could have been in play with the fifth pick. What if the Cavs had drafted one of those? We’ll take a look at a few different options this offseason, and first up is a player many analysts had high on their boards heading into the 2020 draft, but who fell anyway all the way to the 12th pick: current Indiana Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton.

What if the Cavs had drafted Tyrese Haliburton instead of Isaac Okoro?