When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin with the 8th overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, they saw a potential starting power forward who could replace Julius Randle if need be. However, their cautious approach backfired, as Randle had one of the best seasons in Knicks’ history and won the Most Improved Player award.
However, despite Randle’s dominance, Toppin struggled to find his footing at the NBA level, connecting on .306 of his three-point attempts and recorded a .731 free-throw percentage. There’s no question that Toppin has plenty to work on moving forward, but he has the work ethic to get it done. Having been overshadowed by Immanuel Quickley during the 2020-21 season, the Knicks’ 25th overall pick, there’s no doubt the Dayton product could bounce back with major development this summer.
Toppin finished the season averaging 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and shot .498% from the field over 11 minutes of action. Ultimately, with Randle playing so well, the Knicks could not give the rookie PF as much playing time as they desired.
At 22 years old, they will look to get him more involved in the future, even if it means playing both Toppin and Randle at the same time. Worst case scenario, Obi ends up complementing Julius off the bench and offering an adequate player to fill the power forward spot in case of injury or fatigue.
One major positive for Toppin was his postseason performance, where he elevated the team at times, averaging 6.4 points per game, more than his regular-season average.
There is the possibility that Toppin could find himself in an awkward position as the Knicks look to acquire a star player this off-season via trade. Toppin could very well be a part of the equation, considering they have Randle and are expected to offer him a max contract. Nonetheless, I believe they are committed to the Brooklyn native for the time being.
There is an interesting combination of players that could maximize the Knicks’ roster, but they desperately need a star point guard to help unlock the potential of their current players. A front-court combo of Randle, Mitchell Robinson, and Toppin would establish an exciting trio, but they need a PG with elite court vision to feed them the ball in good positions.
The most exciting part about Toppin was witnessing his shot efficiency and comfort on the floor increase as the season went on. Despite having minimal minutes to operate with, he experienced tremendous growth, and Toppin is not the type to sit quietly and ignore his craft. He will participate in this Summer League to improve his skills and work alongside Quickley and Luca Vildoza, who the Knicks signed to a four-year contract this off-season.
There is a reason to be confident in Obi and his growth, and this off-season could end up being a tremendous opportunity for him to work his way into the starting team, but it is entirely dependent on his shooting prowess and efficiency as a defender — we all know how much Thibs loves him some defense.
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