Obi Toppin thriving in Pacers role shouldn't make Knicks fans bitter

New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Obi Toppin
New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, Obi Toppin / Dylan Buell/GettyImages

Obi Toppin was traded by the New York Knicks five months ago, and he's already playing for a championship. Okay, an In-Season Tournament championship, but still.

It took a few games for Toppin to adjust to a different scheme, but he's thriving now. Toppin's averaging a career-best 13 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game, shooting 61.2% from the field and 36.8% from three.

His improved offensive numbers probably have something to do with the fact he plays with Tyrese Haliburton, who leads the league with 12.1 assists per game. Speaking of Haliburton, he's shined in the IST spotlight, and he has Indiana in a position to win the first-ever NBA Cup.

Obi Toppin is thriving as Pacers take In-Season Tournament by storm

Toppin hasn't been nearly as dominant as Haliburton (no other player has), but the former Knick scored in double figures in the quarterfinals and semifinals. Including the Pacers' past two IST games, Toppin scored double figures in four straight games.

His highest-scoring game of the season was on Nov. 30, when he dropped 25 points (10-of-15 from the field, 3-of-7 from three) in 33 minutes.

Believe it or not, some Knicks fans still haven't accepted the trade that happened at the beginning of July. It was difficult to comprehend that New York let Toppin go for two second-round picks, but that was the reality of the situation. The front office wasn't going to get much more than that for a player who never received consistent minutes.

Of course, the only people that the Knicks can blame for receiving so little in return for Toppin is themselves. When New York drafted him with the No. 8 overall pick in 2020 (and passed on Haliburton), there was no way of knowing that Julius Randle was about to have a breakout season. The two-time All-NBA/All-Star overshadowed Toppin's three years with the organization.

Toppin was playing a losing game. It didn't matter how well he played; he didn't see an increase in minutes in Tom Thibodeau's rotation. It wasn't until he was traded to the Pacers that the Knicks finally gave him the role he deserved.

While it may sting to see Toppin utilized correctly in Indiana, New York fans should be happy for him. That doesn't mean fans should root for the Pacers, but it's nice to see Toppin finally find his footing in the league. In retrospect, no, the Knicks shouldn't have drafted him, but how often do draft prospects not pan out as hoped?

Sure, it's easy to think about what might've been if Obi Toppin had secured the starting power forward spot in New York or if the Knicks had drafted Haliburton, but there's no use dwelling on those things. What's done is done.