3 things Obi Toppin needs to do for New York Knicks to have a breakout 2021-22 NBA season

New York Knicks power forward Obi Toppin #1
New York Knicks power forward Obi Toppin #1

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

New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin #1 going up for a block
New York Knicks rookie Obi Toppin #1 going up for a block

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.

#2 Obi Toppin needs to improve his rebounding

New York Knicks Obi Toppin #1 going in for a layup
New York Knicks Obi Toppin #1 going in for a layup

Similar to his defense, Obi Toppin struggled to rebound in college. Compared to his contemporaries, Toppin averaged 29 minutes a game and only brought down 6.6 rebounds. He is a 6’9” 220-pound power forward, and you would expect a little more of an impact on the boards from someone that size.

Obi Toppin Bandwagon applications formally close on Opening Night FYI

Toppin faced that same struggle in the NBA, with just 2.2 rebounds a game in his 11 minutes. Again, Toppin’s competition outrebounding him, with Noel and Gibson having over nine rebounds according to per 36-minute stats, while Toppin’s was just 7.3.

It is clear based on Obi Toppin’s Sumer League that he looks to improve in that area. Despite being in the Summer League, Toppin averaged 8.3 rebounds in 35.1, which is an improvement on his per 36 stats last season. Just about any progress could get him more minutes based on how explosive he can be on offense.

#1 Obi Toppin can extend his range

New York Knick Obi Toppin dunking in the Slam Dunk contest
New York Knick Obi Toppin dunking in the Slam Dunk contest

Obi Toppin is a gifted athlete, and there was a reason he was selected to participate in the Slam Dunk contest last season. If Toppin can expand his range a little in the NBA, his offensive game could become too good to sit him no matter how he rebounds or plays defense.

A big key to unlocking his whole game would be expanding his range. In Toppin’s final year in college, he did shoot 39% on 2.6 attempts per game. However, in the NBA, his percentage dipped to 31% on just 1.4 attempts. Furthermore, Toppin took a three almost 50% of the time he was shooting, only taking 3.4 shots a game. In his final season in college, he was taking just 12.8 shots a game with 2.6 attempts from three.


If Toppin was maybe a little more conservative with this three-point shot, perhaps he could have seen more minutes with better percentages. Both Noel and Gibson combined for a total of 0.3 three-point attempts per game. That could have been the skill that pushed Toppin into a more prominent role in the regular season last season, but he was cold from behind the arc.

In the Summer League, Obi Toppin looked like a much better and more conservative shooter. Out of his 18.3 attempts per game, only 5.2 were threes, and he made them 34%. If his percentage can stay the same going into the season, it would be a much-welcomed improvement.

Poll : Will Obi Toppin average more than 15 minutes this season?



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Edited by Arnav Kholkar
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