Knicks: Read this if you didn’t like the Obi Toppin pick

DAYTON, OHIO - FEBRUARY 22: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers in action in the game against the Duquesne Dukes at UD Arena on February 22, 2020 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)
DAYTON, OHIO - FEBRUARY 22: Obi Toppin #1 of the Dayton Flyers in action in the game against the Duquesne Dukes at UD Arena on February 22, 2020 in Dayton, Ohio. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images) /

Some New York Knicks fans were disappointed in the selection of Obi Toppin: should they be?

I am not going to lie, I am part of the New York Knicks fan base that was upset with the Obi Toppin pick. This is coming from a diehard fan that has trusted the organization when they selected players who were booed on draft night: Kristaps Porzingis, Frank Ntilikina and Kevin Knox. I am also one of the few fans who liked the Renaldo Balkman pick back in 2006. In fact, I can’t think of a draft of pick before Toppin who I didn’t like.

So why was I so upset this time? I think the reason is expectations. Not since the Dave Checketts/Ernie Grunfeld era did I fully trust the front office as I do now, back then I was just a naïve kid. So this is actually the first time as a fully-formed adult that I have been enamored with the Knicks’ front office. I guess I was expecting them to make a more creative out of the box move.

Then there is the phobia I have developed for flashy players that are bad at defense. I blame Isiah Thomas and Steve Mills for this. So when Toppin was picked, it felt like Thomas and Mills were still running the show. To make matters worse, Leon Rose’s son Sam is part of the CAA team that reps Toppin. When I found that out, it really got my blood boiling.

But once I saw Stephen A. Smith lamenting the pick on ESPN, I said to myself that I couldn’t turn into that type of Knicks fan. You know, the ones that give us all a bad name and is the bud of the mainstream media’s jokes. So I told myself to give the pick a chance. What other choice do I have? I love the Knicks and couldn’t leave them for another team if I tried.

An Obi-jective View

As I started to look for reasons to talk myself into liking the Toppin pick, I went straight to the front office. You have to think that Walt Perrin doesn’t want his reputation ruined by being associated with a bust, especially if he is hoping to replace Scott Perry as GM.

Then there is Leon Rose. He has to know that the selection of Toppin was going to get extra scrutiny because he is a CAA client that is being repped by his son. Rose must have been completely sold on Toppin in order to risk having his tenure as president tainted right from the start.

Then there is Coach Thibodeau, someone that  demands his players play defense. He was fired from his last job partly because of Karl-Anthony Towns, one of the worst defensive centers in the game. You figure that Thibodeau wouldn’t want history to repeat itself. Thibodeau is a great coach and must have noticed a way he could get Toppin to improve enough on defense to not be a liability. After all, Obi is an explosive athlete.

Nepotism isn’t always bad

While I didn’t like the fact that Toppin is repped by Leon Rose’s son and trained by Rose’s close friend and first ever client, Rick Brunson, that arrangement does provide Rose and World Wide Wes more insight into the player than most executives normally get. Relationships matter in basketball just like they do in business and personal life. Having a guy that you know will buy into your culture matters.

Common sense drafting

Nowadays we put too much emphasis on analytics and checklists. We focus on a player’s potential more than their production. It would be great if Toppin was a 19-year-old from a Power 5 conference school that could play multiple positions and be an elite two-way player. If he was, then he would have been selected 1st overall in the draft.

But just because he isn’t, doesn’t mean he can’t be a good player. Let’s be real, the talent in this class wasn’t great. The 8th pick in this draft is the equivalent of the 12th or 13th pick in a regular draft, which is a spot in which you hope to land a good starter. And that is exactly what Obi’s projected floor happens to be. While the other prospects that went before him have higher ceilings, their floors are much lower. You would not be surprised if six out of the seven players chosen before Toppin turn out to be busts. That is due to immaturity and undeveloped potential.

The Knicks are already flushed with young raw players, most of them are still younger than Toppin. Picking a player that can contribute right away is key. New York needed to ensure they walked out of this draft with at least one tangible asset since the trade value of all their other young players not named Mitch and R.J. is nonexistent.

Learning from the past

The best example of this in the 2011 draft when the Knicks took a raw young player with tremendous upside with the 17th pick named Iman Shumpert. They passed on a certain older player that was also raw after four years of college who went 30th, and that player was Jimmy Butler. While the measurables and the checklist favored Shumpert, Butler turned out to be the better player because of his drive, grit and maturity.

Next. Grading the Knicks' draft. dark

It is also a fact that some players do better in certain team cultures and cities. Maybe Rose and his staff saw something different in this kid. Maybe Obi is the one player who is built for New York.