The New York Knicks‘ 2022-23 campaign has become something of a roller-coaster ride as the team barrels toward its regular-season finale. After winning nine straight games during February and into March, Tom Thibodeau‘s club has suddenly lost six of its last nine contests entering Monday’s bout with the Houston Rockets.
Amid the wild, up-and-down swing, though, one thing has remained painfully, frustratingly, mind-bogglingly constant: Obi Toppin isn’t getting any run.
The former No. 8 overall pick hasn’t crossed the 20-minute threshold since we were still using 2022 calendars. And over the Knicks’ last four games, he’s averaging just 4.3 points and 1.8 rebounds in 11.8 minutes per contest and shooting 36.8% from the field.
Given the fact that he can’t crack Thibs’ rotation even when the chips are down and All-Star Julius Randle is going through some stuff — and he’s hardly setting the world on fire when he does get opportunities — ESPN’s Zach Lowe doesn’t see the talented young big man sticking as a long-term piece in the Big Apple.
“Toppin is eligible for an extension this summer, but it’s hard to see any marriage here,” he wrote in his latest ’10 Things’ column over the weekend.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe Sounds Off on Obi Toppin’s Strange Existence With the New York Knicks
While Thibodeau’s spotty usage of Toppin has never matched up to the ideal that many had envisioned for the 25-year-old, Lowe has observed — just as the New York faithful have — that the situation has been worse than ever in ’22-23.
“Toppin’s entire existence is running around for two short stints, jacking a few open 3s and retiring to the bench,” Lowe writes. “If he makes a couple of threes, he helped. If he goes 0-of-4, you forget he played. He has no chance to establish rhythm.”
It’s an unfortunate turn of events for the Dayton alum, who took advantage of the scraps he got in a big, bad way last season.
Over the last 15 games of the 2021-22 campaign when Randle was in and out of the lineup, Toppin was putting up 16.1 points and nearly five rebounds in 24.8 minutes per game. He also hit pay dirt on 57.1% of his field-goal attempts overall and 42.3% of his 4.7 tries from three-point range per contest.
Meanwhile, his net rating for the year of 6.9 was the No. 1 mark teamwide among players logging 400-plus minutes.
For his part, Lowe still sees the talent that made those numbers possible
“He runs the floor faster than almost any big man, and he’s a quick passer with handoff skills. If he can make enough three, and New York brass was extremely bullish before the season, Toppin is a good backup and spot starter, despite below-average defense.”
B/R Implores Tom Thibodeau to Find Minutes for Toppin
Bleacher Report’s Zach Buckley clearly believes that Toppin is capable of more as well. In the scribe’s “blueprint” for the Knicks to make a deep run in the 2023 NBA Playoffs, getting more out of the 6-foot-9 prospect was a key plank to the plan (along with tightening the defense and increasing Josh Hart’s aggressiveness).
He can give the Knicks more than this. He has the hops to finish above the rim, enough handles to slip around slower defenders and a three-ball that runs hot on his good nights. He could be a helpful piece of a postseason rotation.
But Toppin needs a role expansion, even if it isn’t a dramatic one. The Knicks have given him 20-plus minutes seven times this season. They are 5-2 in those contests.