The New York Knicks were a surprise playoff team last season. However, they did that with little impact from their 8th overall pick, Obi Toppin. Toppin appeared in 62 games and averaged just 11 minutes per game in his rookie season. Toppin did suffer a calf injury that forced him to miss some time, but his lack of minutes was due to a few factors.
The Knicks had a crowded backcourt with Julius Randle, Mitchell Robinson, Nerlens Noel and Taj Gibson playing more minutes than Toppin. Head coach Tom Thibodeau is also known for playing his starter's heavy minutes and being tough rookies.
On top of that, Obi Toppin was drafted into the NBA in one of the weirdest and most challenging times in recent human history. COVID-19 affected many NBA players, and for rookies who are just getting used to the NBA, it must have been even harder on them. Not having consistent practice or being around your teammates could have had a massive effect on Toppin’s season.
Obi Toppin has already impressed this offseason, dominating in the NBA Summer League. He avenged 21 points and 8.3 rebounds in 35.1 minutes a game. If Toppin can expand on the following three things, he could find more consistent minutes with the Knicks in his sophomore season.
#3 Obi Toppin finds a role on defense
Coming out of college, one of the most significant question marks for Obi Toppin was his defense. In college, he only averaged 0.8 steals and one block per game.
To get consistent playing time in the NBA, you need to be solid on defense, even more so when you play for a coach like Thibodeau, who values defense. Toppin didn’t have a bad defensive rating per 100 possessions, at 108. But just 0.3 steals and 0.2 blocks are not making an impact on defense.
Toppin’s competition in the frontcourt, Noel and Gibson, both offered less on offense but were far better defenders. Thibodeau valued Noel and Gibson’s defense more than Toppin’s offense as they both averaged over 10 minutes more than Toppin.
If Obi Toppin can find a way to be a little more balanced on both ends, his minutes will rise for him to show off his talent more.