Knicks Rumors: Obi Toppin Could Be Demoted; Tom Thibodeau Values Taj Gibson's Defense

Tyler Conway@@jtylerconwayFeatured Columnist IVMay 23, 2021

New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin (1) controls the ball during an NBA basketball game against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday, May 11, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)
AP Photo/Ashley Landis

New York Knicks forward Obi Toppin may reportedly find his minutes cut during the playoffs as coach Tom Thibodeau relies more heavily on veteran Taj Gibson.

Marc Berman of the New York Post reported the Hawks are preparing for Gibson and Julius Randle to see an increase in minutes at the expense of Toppin, the Knicks' first-round pick. 

Toppin averaged just 11.0 minutes per game during the regular season, so any reduction of minutes would essentially remove him from the rotation. While teams regularly pare their rotation for the postseason, his jettisoning would send a message he may not be part of the long-term plans. 

Toppin, billed as perhaps the most NBA-ready player of the 2020 draft class at age 22, struggled to make an impact on both ends of the floor. He averaged 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds while struggling in particular to hang defensively, a death knell for a Thibodeau-coached team.

Gibson, by contrast, is a Thibodeau favorite who has earned trust with the coach in both Chicago and Minnesota. The 35-year-old is a fringe rotation player at this point in his NBA career, but it's not a surprise that Thibodeau would prefer his steady defensive IQ over a struggling Toppin. 

If Toppin doesn't make significant strides this offseason, he's in danger of being the third Knicks top-10 pick to fail to live up to his billing.