The New York Knicks were ecstatic when Dayton Flyer, Obi Toppin, fell to them at No. 8 in the 2020 NBA Draft. Toppin is who the Knicks were targeting and there were talks of them moving up in the draft to get him. They decided to remain put and the move was a rewarding one as Toppin fell right in their lap.
Fans were excited about what Toppin would bring to the team. He was supremely athletic with numerous highlight plays in his college career. Some people compared him to Amar’e Stoudemire, but with more range on his jump shot. However, it has been a slow go for him to start his career.
The NBA didn’t have a regular offseason, as there were only 71 days between the NBA Finals concluding the next season beginning. Rookies like Toppin were negatively impacted by that, as they not only had a shortened training camp, there was no Summer League to get their feet wet at. He also suffered an injury in his first career game to further put him behind the eight-ball.
He has worked himself back into the rotation and there were some whispers we could start to see more of him on the court after Mitchell Robinson fractured his hand.
At Dayton, Toppin would sometimes be slid over to the center spot and presented a nightmare matchup for opposing defenses. The opportunity was there for that to happen with the Knicks with Robinson sidelined, but head coach Tom Thibodeau has put a damper on that idea.
“He’s still a work in progress,” Thibodeau said, via Stefan Bondy of New York Daily News . “I think he’s learning the league. I think Julius has played more center than he has, so when he’s played with Julius he’s been more of the power forward. Him learning one position right now is probably better in terms of his overall development and growth. At some point, we will get a look at that as well.”
To help compensate for the loss of their starting center, there were talks that Toppin would join Julius Randle in the frontcourt to increase his minutes.
That has yet to happen, as Thibodeau has mostly stuck with his two-man rotation at the 5, with Nerlens Noel taking over as the starter and Taj Gibson filling in behind him.
Eventually, that could change. There are legitimate concerns about whether Noel and Gibson can hold up playing combining to play the entirety of the game. Noel already has had some knee soreness this season and Gibson, at 35-years old, may not have much left in the tank.
Right now, the most Knicks fans can hope for is that Thibodeau moves Julius Randle over to the center spot periodically to get Obi Toppin a few more minutes at power forward. Until coach Thibodeau is comfortable using some smaller lineups, it will be difficult for Toppin to find many minutes playing behind an All-Star in Randle.