Knicks 2020 NBA Draft: The case for and against picking Obi Toppin at No. 8

Alex Smith
·4 min read
Obi Toppin treated image
Obi Toppin treated image

While the Knicks had hopes of landing the No. 1 overall pick in November's 2020 NBA Draft, they currently find themselves in possession of the eighth overall pick. 

The team could always try to trade up, or maybe even acquire assets to trade back. And while standing pat at No. 8 may be the least exciting move, the Knicks could still land a talented rookie in that spot. 

So let's take a look at some of the pros and cons of potential draft options for the Knicks, whether it's through moving up or staying in the eighth spot, starting with Dayton forward Obi Toppin.

The case for drafting Toppin

The 6-foot-9 Brooklyn native was the best, and probably the most exciting, player in college basketball last season, earning just about every National Player of the Year award, including the prestigious Naismith Trophy. Toppin led the Flyers to a 29-2 record, and Dayton likely would have been a number one seed in the NCAA Tournament, as the Flyers were ranked third in the country when play stopped due to COVID-19

The First Team All-American selection averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while also shooting 39.0 percent from the three-point line. Toppin isn't only a volume scorer, but an efficient one as well, as he had the best field goal percentage (63.3 percent) of any Division 1 player who averaged at least 20.0 points over the last five seasons.

Toppin has a prolific ability to attack the rim, as he led the nation with 107 dunks last season. His athleticism is through the roof, and there's no reason to believe that wouldn't transfer over to the NBA level. From a pure talent perspective, the Knicks need help across the board, and it's exciting to think of the possibilities of teaming Toppin up with R.J. Barrett and Mitchell Robinson, which would give the Knicks a prolific young trio of players, whose skill sets seem to complement each other nicely. 

Toppin is the kind of player who could electrify the Madison Square Garden crowd and bring some excitement back to the Knicks, a team that's been in the doldrums for quite some time. Adding an above-the-rim human highlight reel like Toppin, with the bonus of him being a local product, could be just the spark the Knicks need as they begin the Tom Thibodeau era.

The case against drafting Toppin

A couple of arguments could be made for why the Knicks should pass on Toppin if he's still available when New York is on the clock.

The main con of drafting Toppin is that unless the Knicks can pull off a trade for a veteran point guard like Chris Paul or Russell Westbrook, adding backcourt scoring is probably the team's top priority. Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. are both former lottery picks, but they haven't quite found a way to establish themselves as consistent scorers in the NBA.

So are the Knicks better suited going for guard, maybe a Cole Anthony or Killian Hayes (though he's struggled with his shooting)? Or perhaps doing everything they can to trade up for LaMelo Ball is the solution.

The other question to keep in mind with Toppin is this: Where exactly does his fit on the floor, position-wise? At 6-foot-9, 220 pounds, he has the size to be a stretch four in the NBA, but his defense on the perimeter in college was suspect at times, and that could continue at the next level.

From an offensive standpoint, Toppin doesn't have a ton of moves in the low post. With Dayton, he often relied on his size and athleticism advantage to score down low, but he'd need to develop more moves at the NBA level.

And while he shot 39.0 percent from beyond the arc, he only attempted 82 threes in 31 games, just over 2.5 per game. He doesn't need to be a knock-down NBA shooter, but improving his willingness to shoot three-pointer could go a long way for him as a pro, as defenders would be more likely to play up on him, giving him a lane to the basket.