The highlight of the annual NBA Draft Combine in Chicago is team executives sitting down with lottery candidates for live interviews at the historic Hilton Hotel on Michigan Avenue.
The combine scheduled for last week was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Also canceled was Iowa State point guard Tyrese Haliburton’s chances of making a lasting impression as the top point guard in the draft.
“On Zoom, you can only impress so much,’’ Iowa State head coach Steve Prohm told The Post in a phone interview. “If he was in person, over dinner, or in the facility or ballroom at the combine, he’d knock it out of the park. His spirit and personality will wow people. He’ll move up on the charts on that alone.”
The 6-foot-5 Haliburton is high on the charts now — a consensus top-3 point guards in the draft with a well-rounded, pass-first, high-IQ game. He’s deemed the safer pick than LaMelo Ball, whom The Post reported Saturday is No. 1 on the Knicks’ point guard board.
Haliburton, 20, did not take the one-and-done path. His sophomore season got interrupted in February with a left-wrist injury.
League sources believe a good chance exists that a downsized combine complete with live interviews for the elite prospects will occur sometime in August or September once the draft is officially postponed from June 25. Prohm said he is hopeful that happens for Haliburton, an Oshkosh, Wisc., native who is training in Milwaukee.
“He’s off-the-charts mature, invested in the university, all about winning and the team,’’ Prohm said. “His character and maturity is very high.”
Prohm met with Haliburton, a three-star recruit, after his surprise freshman year in which the 6-foot-5 point guard led the NCAA in assist-to-turnover ratio.
“We met real briefly,’’ Prohm said. “He probably would’ve been drafted last year in some fashion — late first, early second. In our conversation, I called him in the office and said, ‘Hey, do you want to go through the process. If you do, let’s go ahead and get more feedback.’ He was adamant. ‘Hey coach, I have no interest in that right now. I’m coming back to school.’ ”
And Haliburton played his way into a top-eight pick in virtually all mock drafts. The Knicks are No. 6 in the lottery seedings, but can fall all the way to 10.
“It’s his versatility,’’ Prohm said on why the NBA is hot for Haliburton. “He’s a point guard at heart — a willing passer and really has a great understanding for the game. He can play with the ball in his hands, without the ball. He can really make shots.
“He checks all the boxes — when you talk character, personality. He’s got an engaging spirit that the fan base will fall in love with. He understands his role — big, small, good or bad — and will buy into it.’’
As a sophomore, Haliburton, who reportedly has a 7-foot wingspan, averaged 15.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 6.5 assists.
As The Post reported first in February, the Knicks are seeking a scoring point guard in the draft. New York native Cole Anthony might be the Knicks’ cup of tea, as he has more of a scorer’s mentality and considered the flashier penetrator than Haliburton.
Haliburton, however, is a much better 3-point shooter (career 42.6 percent).
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“I think [Tyrese] would be a great pick for the Knicks from the standpoint of he’d embrace that city and the fan base would really enjoy getting to know him,’’ Prohm said. “He can really make 3’s and can shoot more than 40 percent in his career. He’s a really good free throws shooter, has floaters, mid-range game.
“People talk about him going all the way to the basket, but he can make decision to find people or a drop-off on a roll. I think he can score at all three levels. In his heart he wants to be a pass-first guy. That’s just who he is.”
At 173 pounds, Haliburton, by all accounts, needs to add weight.
“He’s back at it working out, putting on some more weight in the offseason,’’ Prohm said. “He got great length and great size for his position but more weight will help. We talked the other day about 185 or so when the draft rolls around — [adding] a good 10-12 pounds on him.”
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