Why Knicks Traded Obi Toppin

Julius Randle Obi Toppin Knicks

Getty New York Knicks star Julius Randle high-fives Obi Toppin during a game against the Boston Celtics.

Now it can be told why the New York Knicks settled for a pair of late second-round picks for Obi Toppin.

“It was time to trade Obi (Toppin). He needs to play more and we’re committed to Julius Randle. It does leave us with a bit of a hole at the 4, but that’s something we can figure out going into the season,” an anonymous team source told Keith Smith of Spotrac.

Barring an Indiana Pacers trade for Pascal Siakam, Toppin is expected to start and form an exciting tandem with his 2020 NBA Draft classmate Tyrese Haliburton.

The move, essentially, was more of a favor for Toppin, who was Leon Rose’s first lottery selection as the team president and a client of his son, Sam Rose, at Creative Artists Agency. But it also helped the Knicks gain future flexibility as Toppin is due for an extension after next season.

With the Knicks committed to Randle, it will be tough for Toppin to earn meaningful playing time and get paid had they held on to him.

“I didn’t get the minutes I wanted. But now it’s a new start. I’m here in Indy,” Toppin said via New York Post’s Zach Braziller in his first interview since the trade.

But whenever he got that opportunity to start, the 6-9 Toppin showed out, averaging 20.8 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.1 assists.

Pacers coach Rick Carlisle is excited to have Toppin in Indiana.

“We’re thrilled to get him,” Carlisle said during their team introduction. “The way we want to play, the identity we have is to play fast.”

Knicks Search for Cheap Julius Randle Backup

Toppin’s departure leaves the Knicks thin at the power forward position.

According to a New York Daily News report, they are scouring the market for a cheaper option to replace Toppin’s 15 minutes of playing time as Randle’s backup.

“According to a source, the Knicks are monitoring the free-agent market for a veteran big. Available players include Gorgui Dieng and Derrick Jones Jr.,” Daily News’ Stefan Bondy wrote.

The Knicks still have the $4.5 million bi-annual exception and veteran minimum to use in their search for a cheap backup big.

Other notable free-agent power forwards available in the market are Christian Wood, Jamychal Green and Markieff Morris.

Another option for the Knicks is to let Josh Hart and RJ Barrett split the backup 4 minutes, which Tom Thibodeau did in spurts last season, and to open up playing time for their free agent pick up Donte DiVincenzo.

Knicks Wellness Lead Leaves

On Friday, Erwin Benedict Valencia, the Knicks’ wellness lead, announced he’s leaving the team after nine seasons with the organization.

“It is with deep sadness but immense gratitude that I share I will no longer be a member of the New York Knicks Medical and Performance Staff beginning the 2023–2024 Season,” Valencia wrote on Medium.

Valencia is credited for introducing the space and wellness program during the Phil Jackson regime, which includes meditation that became part of Randle’s pregame routine last season. It helped the two-time All-Star forward keep his emotions in check for the most part following an emotionally-charged 2021-22 season.


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