Exec Fears Knicks Rising Star Will Request Trade

Tom Thibodeau, New York Knicks

Getty Head coach Tom Thibodeau of the New York Knicks reacts during the second half against the Brooklyn Nets.

Ever since the New York Knicks took Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick back in the 2020 NBA Draft, fans have been waiting patiently to see the big man get his opportunity within Tom Thibodeau’s system and, in turn, break out onto the scene.

Now, entering his third season donning the blue and orange threads, the big man has yet to see such a coming out party, and, according to one Eastern Conference executive, there’s a real possibility that it will never happen — not with the Knicks, anyway.

In a recent sit-down with Heavy Sports’ NBA Insider Sean Deveney, the executive was asked what players, if any, could realistically ask out of New York in the near future. In response, they mentioned Toppin as being someone people should “worry about.”

“I think Obi is the one you worry about because he has done everything a guy like him can do to get more playing time, he has gotten better every year, he deserves to get more of a look on the floor, but as long as they have Julius Randle there, they’re stuck,” the exec told Deveney.

“[Thibodeau] does not play Randle at center at all, so you can’t ever have Obi and Randle out there at the same time. They will have an extension due for Obi next summer and they probably won’t give that to him but, obviously, they need to decide what they’re going to do with him. If they want to package him and move him, they could. A lot of teams like him an awful lot.

Randle’s presence has always been a cause for concern when it comes to Toppin receiving the opportunity to unleash his full potential with the Knicks and, considering he’s been relegated to a mere reserve role throughout his tenure, it appears that these fears are completely just.

However, when given an increased role within the rotation, the big man has only managed to shine.

A Trade From Knicks Could Set Toppin Free

If Obi Toppin can’t come across a more prominent role within the rotation for the New York Knicks then perhaps a trade to another organization could be an ideal scenario for him.

Considering how well he’s proven to play when serving as a starter throughout his career, should the big man land somewhere else where he’s subsequently inserted into the first five lineup, his star potential could quickly start to become more apparent.

The former lottery pick has been truly astonishing both from the eye test as well as by the numbers when serving as a starter in the NBA, as he boasts stellar averages of 20.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and just shy of a block on 57% shooting from the floor and 43.6% shooting from deep in such outings.

As the executive told Heavy Sports, Toppin has managed to improve with every passing year, yet has not seen much of an increase in his respective role within New York’s rotation.

In fact, through six games played in 2022-23, we see him logging even fewer minutes than he did last season (15.5 compared to 17.1), though is certainly making the most of the playing time he comes across, as he’s posting averages of 9.5 points (career-high), 3.5 rebounds, and 1.5 assists on 56.1% shooting from the floor and a highly efficient 50% shooting from deep, both career highs.

With all this in mind, if the Knicks can’t find a way to make him a key part of their core moving forward then perhaps another team could, and, most likely, they’d be able to do so with relative ease.

Exec Urges Knicks to Pursue Portland Wing

During this same conversation with Deveney, the executive discussed how the Knicks could look to make some more moves moving forward, particularly to better complement franchise centerpiece, RJ Barrett.

When talking about who New York’s front office could look to target, the exec mentioned Portland Trail Blazers wing Josh Hart as being an ideal player the franchise could pursue.

“A guy who would be perfect would be Josh Hart, who can rebound [well at] his position, can defend out on the perimeter, can knock down [three-pointers], [and is a] very good passer,” the executive told Deveney.

The executive specifically noted that Barrett could use for a “solid 3-and-D guy” in the lineup and, throughout his six-year NBA career, Hart has certainly established himself as being such a talent.

So far this season, the 27-year-old finds himself posting impressive averages of 10.5 points, 9.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, and 1.3 steals per contest on 37.5% shooting from deep with the Blazers while also leading their starting unit in both defensive box plus-minus and defensive win shares.

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