Knicks Mailbag: What will NY do with Obi Toppin and what's RJ Barrett's future?

RJ Barrett
RJ Barrett / Wendell Cruz - USA TODAY Sports

SNY's Ian Begley will be responding to and breaking down answers to Knicks questions from readers. Here's the latest...

@NotJesusss: How will the Knicks handle the Obi Toppin situation in your opinion? He’s a lottery pick player who isn’t being utilized highly and has shown that he’s capable of a starting role. With Julius occupying that position, do you see the organization parting ways with Obi this summer?

Great question, @NotJesusss. Just my opinion based on how things have played out to this point: the Knicks won’t feel pressure to trade Toppin this offseason just because he is eligible for an extension. (As an aside, I think they should find a new home for him because it’s the right thing to do.) That’s not to say that a trade is off the table, in my opinion. I think New York will be open to discussing potential trades of Toppin in the offseason. My opinion there is based on the talks they had leading up to the trade deadline that included Toppin. I don’t know if any deal involving Toppin ever got close to the finish line. The Knicks, per one team in touch with them, were seeking a significant return that included valuable draft compensation for Toppin. They had conversations with the Pacers that advanced beyond the cursory/exploratory stage.

Moving forward, I assume that the Knicks won’t move Toppin for anything less than what they see as equal value. They still have Toppin under contract for the 2023-24 season. So they can delay any decision on Toppin until the 2024 offseason. Toppin will be a restricted free agent that summer.

The Knicks can also sign Toppin to an extension this summer. Whatever you think of Toppin or the way the Knicks have used him, he has plenty of backers in the organization. And keeping him in New York for the next few seasons would give New York the kind of roster continuity that its lacked for most of the past two decades.

@jtc9181: Will Obi Toppin ever be given a true chance or ever be put in a position to succeed outside of the last 10 games of last year? When he was given that chance he proved himself to be a starter in this league on the right team. I feel he’s been treated unfairly since drafted. Thanks!

Hey @jtc9181, unless one of the Knicks in the current rotation gets hurt, I can’t see Toppin getting a chance to play more minutes than he’s currently playing. His run at the end of the season came when Julius Randle was hurt. With Randle healthy, it’s hard to see a pathway for more Toppin minutes. I’ve mentioned this before, but teams in touch with the Knicks felt that New York was open to moving Randle after they drafted Toppin. Obviously, Randle had an all-NBA season in 2020-21. So that ended any "trade Randle" talk. And Toppin has been playing behind an All-Star/all-NBA player for the past three seasons. As noted earlier, I think the Knicks should do the right thing and move Toppin, giving him opportunity to succeed elsewhere. Unrelated to your question: if Toppin gets traded, would you reveal your identity? I fully respect your support for Toppin. It’s commendable. I just wish I had more context about it. Are you a Dayton fan? Ossining High School alumni? Family member of Obi’s? I need to know.

@BROOKLYNSAINTS: Hart looks like a good fit for Thibs system. Are there other NBA players who meet Hart’s profile to be a realistic fit for the future?

You’re dead right about Hart. Tom Thibodeau said last week that he coveted Hart throughout his coaching career. When Thibodeau was in Minnesota and Hart was at Villanova, Thibodeau said Hart reminded him of Jimmy Butler. Speaking of Butler, I assume Thibodeau would love to reunite with the Heat star if the opportunity was ever there. Based on past offseasons, we know Thibs has been a Gordon Hayward fan. Donovan Mitchell, Chris Paul and Reggie Bullock are some other players Thibodeau has spoken highly of.

@BostonKnick: Thank you for all you do Ian, can't say it enough...hope you and the family are all well.....was curious if you heard any chatter on potential candidates that'll fill our vacant roster spots (if any). Thank you.

I really appreciate the kind words, @BostonKnick. Thank you for reading/following, man. It’s always great to interact with you. I think, as Hoopshype noted, DaQuan Jeffries is on the radar for a roster spot. Jeffries is currently on a two-way deal. As noted in the video mailbag, I’d be surprised if the Knicks signed a veteran who expected to play with one of their open spots. It’s hard to see how any available players would crack the Knicks’ current rotation.


@NeoFlight25: With the impending return of Mitchell Robinson, most people are wondering about the backup C: Sims or Hartenstein… I am instead inquiring about how these minutes might affect Obi Toppin (his play, more than his minutes) since Rob is a superior rebounder, Obi can run on fastbreak.

You bring up a great point. Maybe Mitchell Robinson’s presence allows Toppin to leak out in transition more often? Along those lines, Josh Hart mentioned on Thursday that he’s comfortable pressuring the ball more and taking more chances on the perimeter with a player like Robinson behind him, since Robinson can block/alter shots at the rim so well. That’s something to keep an eye on with Robinson on the way back.

@Jacobtalksball: If RJ doesn’t turn it around this season and the season ends in disappointment then what could be next for RJ’s future with us?

@AndrewA59778512: Hello Ian, If RJ Barrett continues to struggle especially on defense after the all star break, will they consider trading him whether that is for a star or not?

As noted in the video mailbag, I’m always going to bet on RJ Barrett getting to a place where he’s impacting the game on both ends of the floor. If your scenario comes to fruition, we already know that members of this front office are comfortable moving Barrett. So I assume they’d at least listen to any teams with interest in trading for him. But I’m betting on Barrett impacting the game on both ends and helping the Knicks win games the rest of the season.

@Ken_I_Hitit: What are the chances that we see Melo back in the city, taking up one of the final roster spots of this team?

@ethliv1: Are the Knicks considering Melo for one of their spots?

I don’t know if New York is considering Carmelo Anthony for an open roster spot. Based on past interest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Phoenix considered Anthony for a roster spot. At at least one point in his tenure in Brooklyn, Kevin Durant saw Anthony as a great roster addition. With Durant in Phoenix, that’s something I’d keep an eye on. With regard to Carmelo and the Knicks, I’m under the impression that Anthony had an opportunity dating back to the 2022 offseason to return to New York if it made sense for him. It doesn’t seem like a great fit at the moment, given the Knicks’ tight rotation.