What Obi Toppin Would Bring to the New York Knicks

Kris Pursiainen

[This is the eighth prospect in the 2020 draft that I've done a breakdown on. You can read about Cole Anthony here, Deni Avdija here, Tyrese Haliburton here, Anthony Edwards here, RJ Hampton here, Killian Hayes here, or Onyeka Okongwu here.]

Obi Toppin is a 6'9", 220 pound big man from the University of Dayton. At 22 years old, Toppin is certainly not a young draft prospect - but his scoring ability and high-flying shows of athleticism will force a team in the lottery to bring him in.

The aspect of Toppin's game that is strongest is his ability to put the ball in the hoop. Toppin is a constant lob threat due to his athleticism and vertical leaping ability; his speed and ability to throw down dunks over opposing big men also allows him to become a solid threat when cutting to the rim or in transition. As a roll man in the P&R, Toppin's athleticism and soft touch around the hoop combine to allow him to score efficiently in those situations. 

Having the ability to space the floor has become increasingly important as the NBA turns towards shooting three-pointers at higher and higher volumes each year. Toppin should be able to function as a catch and shooting big from his first game in the NBA, but definitely not at a high volume. He has decent form that will allow him to consistently make shots when open, but causes him to struggle to shoot on the move, off the dribble, or when contested. With proper development, Toppin should eventually be able to hit open and spot-up looks at least at a league-average level, and can certainly progress those shots to a level above that.

In terms of other offensive skills, Toppin is a good passer for a big man who is able to accurately find teammates after receiving the ball himself in the pick and roll or when making passes along the perimeter. He can get the ball to a spot where his teammate might have an easier time catching it - something which might not jump off the screen, but did not go unappreciated. 

Save for when he settles for a contested jumper out of a pick & pop situation, Toppin has a relatively high shot IQ and is good at finding looks that will work for him. He handles the ball like a wing player and creates looks that are efficient either directly with his ball-handling or with keen off-ball movement, such as a play on which he might cut to the rim and utilize his explosive dunking ability that I mentioned earlier. 

Defense is by far Toppin's greatest weakness. Whichever team drafts him will not only be getting a scoring punch at the power forward position, but a defensive liability as well. His awareness, effort, center of gravity, and reliance on his athleticism to make plays on the defensive end of the court are some of the aspects of his defense that could use vast improvement, to name a few. A tough NBA coach could certainly get Toppin into good defensive shape with a few seasons' worth of work, but Toppin displays a plethora of concerns on defense that might make teams considering drafting him look in another direction. 

Toppin's potential defensive improvement begins with his technique. His athleticism can only bring him so far; he relies on it far too heavily to make any sort of real defensive impact at the professional level. With proper technique, and his athleticism as a bonus, Toppin could become a respected shot blocker who at least makes guards think twice before attacking him in the paint. As his defensive skillset currently stands, Toppin would get exposed on that end of the court often due to his inability to properly read offensive plays at a consistent frequency and level.

If the Knicks were to draft Obi Toppin, I assume it would be because they have a trade lined up to send Julius Randle out of New York City. Toppin would slide into the starting power forward spot in his rookie season, with his age and experience at the college level being of large benefit to him in his quest to top the depth chart at his position. I believe that Obi Toppin would function very similarly with the Knicks to how the Atlanta Hawks used forward John Collins last season - one difference of note would be the reduced volume in terms of Toppin's jump-shooting attempts.

Toppin would certainly put on a show for the MSG fans on the offensive end of the court, providing RJ Barrett with another lob threat down low to play side by side with Mitchell Robinson. His troubles on the defensive end of the court, however, would make me hesitant to use any of the draft's first few selections on his talents.

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