Now going into his third season with the New York Knicks, Obi Toppin is looking to build off his performances during the final stretch of last season and carry it over this upcoming season.
Toppin has been one of the fan-favorites due to his elite athleticism and style of play, but hasn’t received consistent minutes in his first two seasons under head coach Tom Thibodeau due to some inconsistencies on both ends of the floor and being the back-up for starting power forward Julius Randle, who has played more than 35 minutes for the past two seasons.
The power forward, who was drafted with the eight pick in the 2020 NBA draft and was the first pick made under Leon Rose’s current tenure as president, averaged 17.1 minutes per game last season and has a career average of just 14.3 minutes per game through his two years in the league.
Though some players could feel slighted by not getting enough playing time, especially if drafted in the lottery, Toppin doesn’t sound too bothered when asked about the amount of minutes he plays while speaking with the media after practice.
“Coach controls all that,” Toppin said. “I’m ready whenever my name is called just like every other player. Whenever my name is called, I’m going to try and give 110 (percent) everyday.”
In the minutes he played, Toppin averaged 9 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 assists last season. It was reported by Ian Begley of SNY that Toppin’s role could increase this season. This likely happened due to Toppin gaining full trust from Coach Thibodeau after the end of last season.
Building Off Late Stretch of Last Season
The best basketball Toppin has played so far in his Knicks career was during the final month of last season in April which Toppin averaged 27.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1 block. He also shot 55 percent from the field and 46 percent from three-point range.
While the sample size can be considered small due to it being the final five games of the regular season, Toppin was able to show his full abilities on the court when he had a good volume of minutes and played freely.
The final game of the 2021-2022 regular season was Toppin’s best, as he put up a career-high of 42 points against the Toronto Raptors, breaking the previous career-high of 35 points he had two nights prior against the Washington Wizards.
Toppin believes those games helped him progress as a player and boosted his confidence when asked about his performance during that stretch.
“It helped me a lot because I was always able to do stuff,” Toppin said. “Coming off of those last games of the season, it helped me going into the summer and showed me what I can do. Gave me a little burst in my confidence.”
A more confident Toppin will be better for the Knicks this season and will give Coach Thibodeau something to think about in terms of his minutes and overall role in the rotation.
Toppin Feels Confident Shooting
Shooting hasn’t been a major strength of Toppin. In his first two seasons in the league, the Dayton product has shot only 30 percent from three-point range.
While he did show flashes of having a perimeter shot when he was in college, Toppin has struggled shooting in the league and made 0.7 threes out of 2.7 attempts last season. This is concerning, especially due to Thibodeau placing Toppin in the corner in some offensive sets where Toppin would shoot the threes from that area.
The good news is Toppin shot the ball at a high level from behind the arc during the final five games of last season when he was starting and averaged over 37 minutes.
Toppin shot over 46 percent from three during that stretch and made 3.8 three-point field goals out of the 8.2 he attempted. Toppin believes confidence is the main factor of him hitting his perimeter shots.
“I’m super confident,” Toppin said when asked about his jump shot. “I feel like that was the only thing I really needed. I had a good shot, it was just basically building confidence.”