New York Knicks: How Obi Toppin is starting to evolve

Obi Toppin, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports
Obi Toppin, NY Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Knicks
Obi Toppin, New York Knicks. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

New York Knicks: Obi Toppin is buying into the “team defense” mindset

This was the side of Obi Toppin’s game that we all knew would be a struggle, but hey, who better to learn defense from than Tom Thibodeau?

It’s going to be hard to show significant strides in the sporadic playing time that Toppin has gotten but when it comes to defense, it’s not as much about volume or getting in a shooting groove. You should be able to showcase your chops on defense even in limited playing time. You can be rusty and still get in there and scrap on defense.

It has been difficult for Obi Toppin. He doesn’t possess great lateral quickness and can have tight hips on defense. I’ve talked about  Toppin’s lack of positional versatility – he struggles to contain quicker wings and stronger bigs. What Obi Toppin can do is maximize his physical strengths to help cover up the parts of the game he’s still learning. He has to use that athleticism and wingspan.

Tom Thibodeau’s defense requires a lot of hard rotations and crashing the strong side of the court. Someone with Toppin’s ridiculous wingspan and leaping ability can easily find a way to wreak havoc.

Look at that block on Kenyon Martin Jr. He’s is able to slide with him and while he does give up some space on the spin move, Toppin has the athleticism and length to recover for a really impressive block. No one is expecting him to guard the opponent’s best player. The NY Knicks just want him to be a cog in the Thibodeau juggernaut.

I believe Toppin can become a solid help defender and shot blocker. Maybe it’s another year or two away but I think of guys like Amar’e Stoudemire or Kristaps Porzingis who aren’t known great defenders yet can get some high block totals by utilizing their leaping ability and reach. He’s starting to figure out how to be more consistent in his defensive stance and using his wingspan to recover.

The rookie is starting to figure out where his spots are on defense. The areas on the floor where he can make an impact. His increased defensive awareness is only going to see him get more playing time and ultimately be able to show off what he can do on offense.