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. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

Obi Toppin starting to find his niche in the New York Knicks offense

Let’s quickly go back to the fit of Obi Toppin and the New York Knicks. The kid comes onto the slowest-paced team in the league and plays the same position as their soon-to-be All-NBA player Julius Randle. It’s been an uphill battle for playing time.

On top of the initial struggles for playing time, the Knicks have been, well, a really good basketball team. Clamors for Toppin to get more playing time so he can develop haven’t been a hot topic considering the Knicks’ main rotation has led to a successful season. Toppin has had to learn in practice and in the 11.1 minutes per game he’s averaged this season.

The Knicks aren’t going to adjust their style to suit Toppin, but Toppin has begun to adjust his style to suit the Knicks.

It really starts with the most glaring component to basketball that just about any fan watching the game can detect: confidence. Maybe Obi Toppin was so used to playing the run-and-gun offense and Dayton that he now thinks every play is a fastbreak. Whatever it was, every time he had the ball it looked like he was pressed to make the right play. It was as though he thought he was running in transition when in reality he was parked in the corner with plenty of time on the clock.

Now, the game is starting to slow down for the 23-year-old. His increased assertiveness getting to the rim has been clear. Someone like Toppin should have a high field goal percentage at the rim and it’s started to increase. His mid-range shot has been falling. (70th percentile on mid-range shots for his position, per Cleaning The Glass) 

The rookie can provide more passing and versatility on offense than really any Knicks forward not named Julius Randle. If he can be a shooter and runner on the court who can also make that extra cross-court pass, then he can settle into a really nice role. I think of guys like Kelly Olynyk, (pre Houston Rockets) and Paul Milsap,

Really, the talent has always been there on offense, but like his defense, Obi Toppin is starting to find his spots. He’s figuring out to slip behind the defense more adeptly and be the off-ball threat that can make a significant impact for this team. New York doesn’t need him to be running the offense, they need him to help others run the offense. He can thrive as a pick-&-roll-man on this team.

With the improved awareness, has Obi Toppin played himself into a larger role?