Now that the NBA pre-season is officially over. For the Knicks, the real fun begins for the fans. Plenty of intriguing questions remain for the Knicks. One question in-particular is how Obi Toppin will perform in his rookie season. During the pre-season, Toppin looked a bit apprehensive with his shot. However, Toppin looked excellent in a few other areas.
One area, in particular, was on the less glamorous side of basketball. Many scouts had pegged Toppin as a below-average defender. Yet it seems like coach Thibs has gotten Toppin to buy in on that side of the ball. Toppin was sliding his feet well on defense and was contesting shots. Much of that should be credited to the coach and his demanding style. Thibs has been known to have a quick leash with players who don’t defend. As the regular season approaches, it’s nice to see the neophyte working on his weakness.
Another area I was pleasantly surprised with Toppin was his playmaking. Although I would love to see Obi be a bit more aggressive in looking for his shot, he is a willing passer. Often driving into the lane and sucking the defense in only to find an open player on the corner for an easy three. This was a part of Toppin’s game that was not advertised enough as he averaged 2.2 assists his final season at Dayton. This will be huge for the Bushwick born prospect as it will open up his game. As his offense game rounds into shape, he will begin to see more double teams, and he has already shown the ability to pass the rock.
The one area I did see Toppin struggle in was with his shot. As his shots bounced off the rim, so went his confidence. He passed up more than a few open shots. This is where Obi needs to trust his work. I mean, he did shot over 40% from the 3 point line in college. So, the shot is there. Getting a few easy looks either in the post or on the fast break will do wonders for the rookie. During the course of the season, he will have his ups and downs. However, the Knicks have put together an outstanding player development staff that will do wonders for him as the season progresses.
My expectations for Toppin is to finish in the top 3 for rookie of the year and make the rookie first team this season. I know many scouts had him pegged as the next Amare Stoudemire, but I see more of Aaron Gordon‘s game in Obi. Both are undersized for the PF position, but their athletic abilities and quick first steps allow them to get to the rim at will. Toppin has more of a 3-point shot than Gordon, and that will do wonders for him. If Obi continues to come off the bench behind Julius Randle, I can see him putting up about 13 PPG 5 Rebounds while spacing the floor for the Knicks.