Finally, draft day came & went. All of the speculation, draft scouting, rumors, debating and literally anything else that Knicks twitter could think of, can be put to rest. (Not exactly. Free agency literally begins tomorrow.)
As soon as I saw that the Chicago Bulls selected Patrick Williams with the 4th overall pick, followed by the Cleveland Cavaliers selecting Isaac Okoro. I got this gut feeling that..... yes.... Obi Toppin might really be going to the Knicks.
*At this point I had turned off my Woj + Shams notifications.*
The Obi Toppin reports that stormed through Knicks twitter all day, after all, wasn't a smoke screen. The Knicks decided to eventually pass up on who many thought would go top 5 in this draft, Israeli forward Deni Avdija with the 8th overall pick.
Adam Silver stepped up to the mic and announced that the New York Knicks had selected Obi Toppin, the 22 year old, 6'9, Brooklyn native out of the University of Dayton.
Initially, I'm shocked. It wasn't that I didn't think the Knicks would select Obi Toppin. Prior to the draft, I had been a big fan/believer of Deni Avdija. So, yes, I was a bit upset.
Enough about how I felt. I know that the Knicks fanbase is very up in the air right now with our draft night results, particularly with Obi. Being that our 8th overall pick is 22 years old and will be 23 years old within 3 months of his NBA career, I do think that Obi can contribute right away. Whether or not that correlates to wins is yet to be seen.
I'm someone who generally doesn't like to paint the entire picture off of stats. However, numbers are sometimes nice to look at. Obi Toppin is coming off of a really strong sophomore season averaging -
20PPG, 7.5RPG, 2.2APG, 1SPG, 1.2BPG on .633/.390/.702 shooting splits.
No matter how you try to slice it up, those are some impressive numbers. Obi surely showed off a nice arsenal during his time at Dayton. Being able to stretch the floor in spot-up situations, shooting threes in transition, finishing around the rim with finesse and last but not least, being able to be a highlight reel whenever he went up strong to the basket for a dunk. Obi displayed pretty much the whole package on the offensive end. Sure, his threes were falling at a pretty high clip, though he didn't really take too many of them per game (Only 2.6 attempts per game). I suggest that before we can confidently solidify Obi as a stretch big, that we wait to see if he is able to knock them down at the next level and at what rate.
Quick look at Obi's shot chart (Thibs will love those efficient corner 3s):
Okay, I'm glad we were able to praise our new rookie & touch on some encouraging things to watch out for when the season begins. But, for this portion of the blog I do want to highlight the concerns that many Knick fans (myself included) have about Obi Toppin.
Yes, I know, I've heard the arguments all night. "Every prospect in this draft has holes in their game." I get it. Trust me, I do. Maybe it's just me and my personal preferences but, I'd much rather select a player (usually one and done) who is younger, possibly a bit more raw and has a pretty high ceiling. At least then, you're banking on your development team to have those usual 2-3 seasons that we give rookies to learn through their mistakes. After those initial seasons, those said rookies would be nearing their second contract at the age of 22-23. In this particular case, Obi Toppin is on the older side. It leaves some concerns in regards to how much can he continue to add to his game that will help win basketball games and just how much will he be able to contribute right now to this team. I think that I am pretty confident in Obi being one of the best players on the Knicks right now. He should be able to contribute and put up some good numbers straight from the beginning. What I worry about is, his fit on this team alongside Mitchell Robinson (waiting to see if he can be a true stretch 4) and just how he progresses in year 2,3,4 and so on.
Now, the glaring weakness in his game - defense. Lets disregard his age for a second. Whenever I took time out of my day during quarantine to watch some film on Obi Toppin, I always came back to one thing - My God is this guy awful on defense. If there's anything that irks me more than a God awful transition three, it would be a player who just simply doesn't get it on defense. I will try my best to reiterate that Obi is still young and will be a rookie. He can definitely learn from his mistakes on the defensive end. Having a coach like Thibs and a big man like Mitchell Robinson surely will help *I hope*. His woes on this end of the floor is the ultimate red flag against him. Obi really struggled in college trying to defend quicker guards. His lateral quickness just wasn't there. His instincts and reads on defense were also a step slow on many occasions. Though, he did show some promise on the defensive end in regards to being able to use his leaping ability to block some shots.
I know this sounds very pessimistic and makes it seem like I'm down on the team and Obi. But, I do feel like I have to say this because it bothers me....
Julius Randle received so much criticism this past season for his inability to play defense at a high level. A very large portion of Knick fans wanted to ship Julius off to space and just completely off the team. The biggest criticism always came back to him not being able to live up to that #1 option role and not being able to defend. If this was such a huge issue for many Knick fans, I wonder if the same standard will be held for Obi Toppin. Defensively, I'm really not sure what some fans expect out of him. Don't get me wrong but, I do hope that he can shut me up and show some promise on defense and surprises me. After all, I want what's best for this team.
Along with my concerns, I do have some questions that I hope I get some answers for once the season begins - Will he be able to switch on smaller guards or will the Knicks be tortured with the Enes Kanter treatment? Will Obi be quick enough to close out on shooters on the perimeter or will he be another case of having cinderblocks on his feet? Will Frank, RJ & Mitch be enough to help cover for him on defense?
For me this is the biggest question of them all - Will Obi Toppin be unplayable when the games start to matter the most?
So many questions but because we still haven't started the season, those answers will have to wait.
That..... that was a lot.
With all of this being said, I think it's safe to say that I will keep my thoughts on Obi Toppin modest for the time being. After all, he is now a New York Knick. I will support him and hope that he can bring some excitement back to a city that has been desperate for it. If it works out, great! If it doesn't..... well I don't know.
I'm sure Obi Toppin will be able to contribute right away for this team. Thibs will find a way to make him look good. If nothing else happens and you need ANYTHING to make yourself feel better about this move - Julius Randle is as good as gone. Unless he comes off the bench of course.
Quick note: Free Agency begins November 20th at 6PM. Players can officially sign contracts on November 22nd at 12:01PM.
Lets Go Knicks!