The New York Knicks and Cleveland Cavaliers are set to face off at Madison Square Garden for the third game of the preseason today. Both teams were bottom-feeders of the Eastern Conference last season.
The Knicks bested the Cavaliers 3-1 in last year’s season series.
Both teams feature young talented players. For the Cavs, point guards Darius Garland and Collin Sexton along with former Knicks fan favorite Damyean Dotson and rookie Isaac Okoro form a very interesting young core. The Cavaliers retained interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff for this season. Cleveland didn’t do much during free agency accept re-signing Matthew Dellavedova. The team also traded for former Laker JaVale McGee to take on his contract. Andre Drummond also opted to return to the team.
The Knicks feature RJ Barrett, Mitchell Robinson, Dennis Smith Jr., and rookie Obi Toppin, all of whom hope to have a breakout year to prove they belong in the NBA. The Knicks hired former Bulls and Timberwolves head coach Tom Thibodeau in the offseason. Although not breaking the bank, the Knicks signed veterans on small deals. Some of those veteran players include Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Austin Rivers. So far, Noel and Burks have done their part to possibly solidify a starting role. Meanwhile, Rivers could miss the preseason due to a groin injury.
Realistically the Knick and Cavs will both be fighting for the chance to draft Cade Cunningham. So, their future games may hold so much draft intrigue to them.
However, the matchup to watch will be Obi Toppin (who the Cavs noticeable passed on in this year’s draft) against Isaac Okoro. Both players were taken top ten and both players have a lot to prove. Will Toppin be out to prove the Cavs made a mistake by skipping over him? Will Okoro be motivated to prove he is more than just a defender? Well, December 16’s matchup will answer a few of those questions.
Obi Toppin made his Knick debut a few nights earlier and looked very energetic. He proved his athletic ability is NBA ready with a vicious dunk against the Pistons. Toppin finished the night with 11 points and 7 rebounds in 20 minutes played. Toppin brings a breath of fresh air to the Knicks with his all-around offensive game. From the three-point shooting to the breath-taking finishes at the rim, the Knicks are glad the Cavs choose Isaac Okoro over Obi Toppin. Toppin has the game to be a further all-star. The Knicks would be wise to hand the keys to the franchise and let him loose.
From the Cavaliers’ point of view, they finished last season as one of the worst defensive teams in the NBA. So, taking Isaac Okoro was viewed as a safe pick for them. Okoro was by far the best defender in his draft class. The Cavs are hoping his game rounds out much like Jimmy Butler‘s game did with the Bulls. Okoro is also just 19 years old while Toppin took his time to develop. Toppin will be entering the league older than some seconder year players at 22 years old.