Dating as far back as this past offseason, the New York Knicks have oft found themselves intertwined within the league’s trade rumor mill as reports have surfaced left and right suggesting that the organization is jonesing for any semblance of a splashy shakeup to their current talent pool.
Though nothing all that noteworthy has yet to transpire for the ball club relating to this particular venture, recent rumblings suggest that Leon Rose and company are still making pursuits behind the scenes.
An anonymous Eastern Conference executive has informed Heavy Sports’ NBA Insider Sean Deveney that the Knicks have engaged in talks with the Indiana Pacers revolving around a potential trade that would send third-year big man Obi Toppin to the Hoosier State and, in the exec’s eyes, the 24-year-old could actually wind up shining bright in this particular setting.
“There has been some talk between the Pacers and Knicks about Obi (Toppin). He fits in Indiana, especially if they keep Turner. Obi is a rim-runner, he has some toughness, he has athleticism. He needs minutes and a team that is rebuilding with young talent like Indy is a really good match,” the exec told Deveney.
The executive would continue by stating that Indiana has some extra first-rounders that could be available for the taking in this year’s NBA Draft which, considering the idea that the Knicks are stockpiling picks, could bode well for a potential deal to ultimately be executed.
While they gave no indication of how far these discussions have gone, there is a strong argument that a rebuilding team such as the Pacers could be an ideal landing spot for the young talent, as they could offer one major luxury that New York, as currently constructed, cannot: ample playing time.
Knicks Big Can Be a Star With More Minutes
Since being selected eighth overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, Obi Toppin has struggled mightily to come across consistent playing time within head coach Tom Thibodeau’s rotation.
Now in year three in the association, before being sidelined with a foot injury back on December 9 the former Dayton star found himself seeing sub-20 minutes per game at just 17.1, though, to his credit, has produced rather efficiently with these minimal opportunities, sporting averages of 7.7 points and 3.8 rebounds on 35.1% shooting from distance.
The main roadblock between Toppin and ample playing time in New York is the presence of the franchise’s 28-year-old former All-Star Julius Randle who serves as the team’s starting power forward, the same position as the former lottery pick.
Considering just how well the ninth-year veteran has played for the Knicks thus far into the campaign, it’s growing less and less likely that the two parties will be parting ways anytime soon, thus meaning Toppin will continue to struggle to come across an influx on minutes upon his return to the hardwood and beyond.
However, on a team like Indiana the young stud would almost certainly have an easier time generating a large role for himself within the rotation, and likely would even be found serving as a regular within the team’s starting lineup where, throughout his career, he has only proven to shine.
When slotted into the first five throughout his tenure in the league, Toppin has gone on to put up tremendous numbers, posting 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.
Unfortunately, as the season move on it’s become more and more apparent that so long as Randle remains in tow, Obi Toppin will continue to be underutilized and, thus, may wind up falling short of living up to his lottery-selected status.
However, perhaps with a team like the Pacers, the youngster can finally find himself being set free.
Knicks Star a Strong Match for Former MVP
If the Knicks wind up shopping Julius Randle this trade season, one Western Conference GM told Heavy Sports’ NBA Insider Sean Deveney that an ideal landing spot for the former All-NBA forward could be the Milwaukee Bucks.
“He might fit well with a team that has multiple options, multiple pretty good options, like Milwaukee,” the general manager told Deveney.
The executive would elaborate more on why Randle could be a quality addition for the 2021 NBA Champions, citing that of all the stars he could formulate a new tandem with, his skill set arguably could compliment All-World talent Giannis Antetokounmpo the most.
“Giannis is one who comes to mind because of the way he cuts and makes himself available and can play off other passers,” the exec told Deveney. “I am not saying that Milwaukee is beating down the doors to get Julius Randle, but that is the kind of star who could work well with a player with Randle’s skill.”
The executive would tell Deveney that Randle “could be easier to move” now that he’s seemingly put his inefficient 2021-22 campaign behind him, as he’s producing at an extremely high level through 35 games played this season, posting impressive averages of 23.8 points, 9.7 rebounds, and 3.7 assists on 47.0% shooting from the field.