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Indiana Pacers head coach Rick Carlisle on new Pacer Obi Toppin: 'We're thrilled to get him'

The Pacers recently acquired Toppin in a trade

LAS VEGAS — Head coach Rick Carlisle has been consistent with his messaging about the Indiana Pacers offseason moves. He is excited about the fact that Tyrese Haliburton (contract extension), Obi Toppin (trade), and Bruce Brown (free agency) are all brilliant transition players that should fit well together.

"Those three guys are the league leaders in effective field goal percentage in transition," Carlisle said of the trio last week.

With Toppin specifically, there is more that Carlisle likes. The 25-year old forward was introduced to the media after a trade with the New York Knicks became official over the weekend, and the head coach was able to discuss what he likes about the new acquisition beyond the synergy he has with other Pacers offseason moves.

Indiana acquired Toppin for two second-round picks — one in 2028 (worst of Indiana's and Phoenix's) and another in 2029 (worst of Indiana's and Washington's). That is great value for the Pacers, who are reshaping their power forward rotation after lacking depth at that spot for years.

Toppin can slot in right away. "We're thrilled to get him," Calisle said. "The way we want to play, the identity we have is to play fast."

Toppin ranked in the 79.3 percentile in transition this past season, per His athleticism pops in the open floor, which is where the young forward feels like he is at his best

But his game is more than that. His outside shot is improving, he rarely turns over the ball, and his feel for the game is something that Carlisle likes. 

"Love his touch and feel. The athleticism speaks for itself, we've all seen it. He's just an above the rim guy," the head coach said. "He plays the game with a lot of feel. I think he's a guy that can make plays.

"His shooting is on the come [up]. He's shooting the ball better each year," he added. There are certainly areas for Toppin to grow, and that will define his season with the Pacers. He does only have one more year on his contract, after all. But Indiana likes his game and hopes he can grow with more opportunities.

The former lottery pick didn't get to play much with the Knicks. He averaged less than 1,000 minutes per season during his three years in New York. With the Pacers, those opportunities will come more often.

Even with the addition of Jarace Walker and the return of Jordan Nwora, Toppin should still get minutes. And Carlisle likes that there is depth at numerous positions. He thinks it could help everybody.

"Our roster has gotten a lot more competitive in the last few weeks. Competition brings out the best in everybody" he said. "That's the way we all have to look at it. There's going to be plenty of opportunity with this team for guys to get minutes."

It isn't clear who will start at the power forward spot at this time. Training camp is still over two months away. Walker and Toppin should be the leading candidates.

That is a problem the Pacers haven't had in a while. In the past, they have struggled to find enough depth at the four spot. Now, they have a surplus. Toppin should still play, but that change in reality shows how much emphasis the blue and gold put on that position this summer. 

"There's been a big hole there for many years. Jarace was part of the equation. Obi's part of the equation too," Carlisle said before bringing up Nwora. "We've got three players at that spot that all play a little different, but they all do things that are important to us."

Toppin had excellent games against the Pacers last season, scoring 66 points in two April outings versus the blue and gold. He showcased what he can be at his best in those battles.

But Carlisle thought his entire season was solid, even the moments he had fewer minutes. Toppin showed growth, and he will give the Pacers a new dimension.

"He fits. Still a young player that can get better and better. We heard great things about his character and work ethic," Indiana's sideline leader said. He added more later.

"He fits the template of what we're doing. He fits the timeline of what we are doing." That is exactly what the building Indiana Pacers need to be acquiring, players who fit their style and timeline. Obi Toppin is exactly that.

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