Sixers draft mistake adds extra fuel to Josh Hart's powerful Knicks playoff surge

Thank goodness this didn't happen.
New York Knicks, Josh Hart
New York Knicks, Josh Hart / Sarah Stier/GettyImages

When Josh Hart declared for the 2017 NBA Draft, he knew where he wanted to go. The Villanova product wanted to stay in Pennsylvania and play for the Sixers, but they had other plans. Philadelphia traded up to No. 25, but not for Hart. Instead, the team drafted Anžejs Pasečņiks, a center from Latvia.

Hart was selected five picks after Pasečņiks. The No. 30 pick belonged to the Jazz, but the Lakers sent their No. 28 pick to Utah for the No. 30 and No. 42 picks. Hart started his career on the West Coast, over 2,000 miles from Philadelphia.

Hart has since played for the Pelicans, Trail Blazers, and now the Knicks. It took him a few stops, but he's found his home. He signed a four-year extension last summer and is part of New York's core. He's a key reason why the Knicks are up 2-0 against the Sixers in their first-round playoff series.

Before Game 3 at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday, Hart was asked if he wanted to be drafted by Philadelphia after playing at Villanova. He said he was disappointed when the Sixers passed on him.

Knicks fan favorite Josh Hart wanted to be drafted by Sixers in 2017

Two years after the Sixers traded up for Pasečņiks, they renounced his draft rights, and he signed with the Wizards. His chapter in Philadelphia closed without him ever playing in a game. From 2019-2021, the center played in only 28 games for Washington.

The Sixers would've been better off drafting Hart, Derrick White, or even Kyle Kuzma, as those three players went off the board soon after the No. 25 pick. Pasečņiks wasn't Philadelphia's only draft mistake that year, as the Sixers selected Markelle Fultz with the No. 1 overall pick.

Now that Hart's in New York, it's as if he was meant to play for the Knicks all along. He embodies the New York mentality. He plays with grit and toughness. Tom Thibodeau has no issue leaving him on the court for all 48 minutes, as he did in Game 2. Hart was built to be a Knick.

Who knows how Hart's career would've played out if the Sixers had drafted him? Maybe he'd still be in Philadelphia, going up against New York in the first round of the 2024 playoffs. Perhaps the Sixers would've traded Hart elsewhere. What matters is that he ended up where he's meant to be. Thank goodness, that wasn't Philly!