When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin 8th overall in the 2020 NBA draft, the front office not only saw a player with upside but a leader and positive energy human. Changing the course of the organization started in the locker room, ridding themselves of negativity and a losing mentality. Drafting Toppin seemed to be a backup plan in case Julius Randle struggled last year, but his emergence as one of the best players in the league forced Toppin into a background role — an expected reality for a rookie.

However, Toppin has an unstoppable work ethic, and he will find a way to make drastic improvements in his game. This past year, he averaged a measly 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds, and shot 50% from the field over 3.4 times per game. From range, he connected on 30% of his shots, taking just 1.4 per contest. His 11 minutes on average will likely expand next year as the team expects him to be a more prominent piece on offense. His inconsistencies on the defensive side of the ball and ability to post up in isolation made him borderline futile at times, but his high energy proved to be valiant during the postseason when Randle was struggling against the Hawks.

Toppin gushed optimism over the weekend, indicating that his teammates will be working hard this offseason and he would be doing the same:

“The work that, not only myself, but the other guys is putting in… We’re going to make it far in the playoffs next year.”

The Knicks are gearing up for a big month:

The Knicks have a ton of big decisions to make this off-season in free agency and the draft, which will ultimately point them in a specific direction. They have the ability to package their selections together and target a high-profile prospect in the lottery picks or sit still and spend all three first-rounders.

With $50+ million available and five players hitting free agency, August is shaping up to be an exciting month for the team, full of action and intensity. Toppin will undoubtedly hear his name mentioned in trade rumors and scenarios, but all he can do is work to improve his game and prepare for the 2021-22 season.

This article first appeared on Empire Sports Media and was syndicated with permission.

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