Analyst Dishes Unfortunate Truth About Knicks Big’s Future

Obi Toppin, New York Knicks

Getty Julius Randle and Obi Toppin of the New York Knicks leave the court after the first half of a preseason game against the Indiana Pacers.

Since being drafted eighth overall back in the 2020 NBA Draft, big man Obi Toppin has struggled mightily to come across consistent playing time while serving as a member of the New York Knicks.

Despite his high-end potential and proven track record when receiving an increased role within Tom Thibodeau’s system, so long as their current talent pool remains intact, it’s believed that the 24-year-old will continue to serve as a mere reserve option and, in turn, fall short of expectations that innately came with his lottery-selected status.

It is because of this that many fans and media pundits are pleading for the Knicks to make some shakeups to the team’s frontcourt to open up more minutes for Toppin and, during a December 1 episode of SNY’s “The Putback”, guest and Knicks Film School analyst Jonathan Macri stated that a way to accomplish this would be by offloading current starting four, Julius Randle.

“Talk about the most predictable answer in the world but I’m calling around to see if there are any takers for Julius (Randle),” Macri said.

“Obi Toppin you drafted eighth overall (and) in two and a half years almost you still have not used this player in any way, shape, or form…because, one, he doesn’t get a lot of time and, two, you’re not using him in the role that he probably should be used in at this level.”

The concept of trying to clear out more playing time for the third-year big has been a topic of conversation all season long, as executives have gone as far as to express fears that his lacking role and minimal on-court action could result in an unceremonious parting of ways at some point in the not-too-distant future.

According to Macri, one way for Leon Rose and company to extinguish such concerns is to find a way to ship out their former All-Star and, simultaneously, bestow a large chunk of the would-be available 33.2 minutes in Toppin’s direction.

Through 22 games, the Dayton product has seen sub-20-minute averages of 17.5 a game while coming off the bench for the Knicks. However, as has seemingly been the case throughout his entire NBA tenure, Obi Toppin has gone on to make the most of his limited action by posting an efficient stat line of 8.2 points and 3.7 rebounds on 37.1% shooting from deep.

Knicks Could Play Randle, Toppin Together

Following up his stance on why the Knicks should consider shopping Julius Randle, Macri would continue by stating that another avenue they could embark on in their effort to carve out more playing time for Obi Toppin could be to offload some of their center talents and opt to slide the youngster in at the five alongside his veteran counterpart.

“I would not only be seeing if there’s anybody trying to give me anything for Julius (Randle), but I’d also…see if I can clear out maybe one of these centers. See if there’s someone out there willing to give me something for (Isaiah) Hartenstein and spend the last 30 or whatever games maybe giving Obi Toppin some time as a true five,” Macri said. 

While their tenure together in New York has seen a popular belief be established that a frontcourt tandem of Toppin and Randle is both ineffective and incompatible, in 2022-23 such a lineup has proven to be quite effective as they are +11.9 in points, +.220 in effective field goal percentage, +5.9 in defensive rebounds, and +6.4 in turnovers per 100 possessions.

Already this season we’ve seen the pairing serve as the spark in impressive victories and, in Macri’s eyes, continuing with the experiment could be a way for the Knicks to get a better understanding of whether they wish to extend Toppin past his rookie-scale contract’s 2024 expiration and, with this, for how much.

Covington a Trade Option for Knicks?

Back in late October, an NBA executive told Heavy Sports’ NBA Insider Sean Deveney that the New York Knicks should strongly consider bolstering their perimeter defense and shooting, as they are perhaps the two weakest areas for this current Knicks team.

Fast forward a few weeks later, and it seems as though this sentiment is shared among many familiar with the team, which is why Ben Stinar of Fastbreak stated in a November 24 article that the ball club should consider targeting Los Angeles Clippers three-and-D forward, Robert Covington via trade at some point this season.

“Still having one more year left on his current contract as well, Covington could definitely be a midseason addition for a team looking to add some more depth on the wing and at their forward positions,” Stinar wrote.

“He plays tough on the defensive-end of the floor and can spread the floor offensively, knocking down routine three-pointers from the corner, which is why he could be an excellent fit in Tom Thibodeau’s system with the Knicks.

Covington offers New York the chance to have a true ‘small-ball’ lineup with his ability to play the center position and while he is not a flashy name, Robert Covington knows what it takes to win in this league.

“The Knicks do not have many playoff experienced players on their roster, which is why moving a player like Evan Fournier or Derrick Rose in a trade for the Clippers’ veteran could make sense.”

Throughout his 10 years in the association, Robert Covington has managed to establish himself as one of the best three-and-D role players in the entire league.

For his career, the 31-year-old boasts impressive averages of 11.4 points, 5.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.6 steals steals and a block per game on 40.7% shooting from the field and 36.1% shooting from deep.

Considering the Knicks rank just 26th in defensive rating (114.1) and dead-last in long-range field goal percentage (31.8%), it’s easy to see why Stinar believes that someone like Robert Covington (17.0 points, 12.4 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks per 100 possessions on 39.5% shooting from distance in 2022-23) could be a great asset for Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.

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