How High Will 2020 NBA Draft's Most Popular Prospect Climb?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterOctober 19, 2020

Dayton's Obi Toppin (1) controls the ball in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duquesne, Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020, in Dayton, Ohio. Dayton won 80-70. (AP Photo/Aaron Doster)
Aaron Doster/Associated Press

Obi Toppin sounds like the most popular prospect in the 2020 NBA draft. 

He might not be No. 1, but practically every scout and executive Bleacher Report has spoken with has expressed confidence in his potential, fit and character. 

Not every NBA evaluator loves LaMelo Ball, whose shooting and professionalism have been questioned by some around the league, even if they still have him at or near the top of their board. And not everyone trusts Anthony Edwards' style and impact or sees James Wiseman's upside or value in today's NBA.

Sources tell B/R the Minnesota Timberwolves are high on Toppin. The question is whether they'd be willing to take him first overall or if they'd only draft the big man out of Dayton in a trade-down scenario.

Teams are buying into Toppin's scoring carrying over based on his explosiveness, inside-out skill level and efficient volume production. And while they acknowledge the concerns about his defense, nobody seems too alarmed or ready to suggest they'll negate or neutralize his projected offensive output.

"Everything he does offensively translates," one scout told Bleacher Report. 

"He has great touch with both hands, and his shooting looks like it could be replicated over and over," said one NBA executive. "A stretch 5 than can be a finisher is tough to ignore. He'll never be quick laterally, but he's capable."

Aaron Doster/Associated Press

While teams may take needs and fit into account more this year (based on the perceived parity among prospects), there is a sense any team could take Toppin—including one he doesn't fit perfectly with like the Charlotte Hornets, Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers or Atlanta Hawks—because of the stronger likelihood he receives a best-player-available nod over more divisive prospects.

He still falls under the perceived "safe" category with Tyrese Haliburton, Isaac Okoro, Deni Avdija and Onyeka Okongwu. But teams see more upside tied to Toppin's vertical bounce, three-point shot, post game and passing. The perception is that he offers the most favorable ratio of risk and reward. 

Multiple NBA front office members told B/R they feel they can mask Toppin's defensive weaknesses by playing him at center, where he won't guard as much around the perimeter and can still use his athleticism for shot-blocking at the rim. 

Toppin's age (22) has also rarely come up as a deterrent. Teams sound persuaded by his offense, which is something the Timberwolves (No. 24 in offensive rating), Hawks (No. 25), Cavaliers (No. 26), Hornets (No. 28) and Bulls (No. 29) could obviously use. 

Asking around the league, it seems highly unlikely Toppin will make it to the Detroit Pistons at No. 7. 

Though I wouldn't write off the Timberwolves shocking the draft world by taking Toppin No. 1, the Nos. 2-6 range sounds most likely. 

Stew Milne/Associated Press

The Golden State Warriors are a wild card at No. 2 given the wide range of possibilities: taking Toppin for his NBA readiness, making a trade or filling a need with either Wiseman at center or one of the top-tier wings.

Charlotte could be a legitimate landing spot for Toppin if Wiseman goes No. 2. The Hornets' leading scorer, Devonte' Graham, shot 38.2 percent from the field in 2019-20, and the team could use an efficient go-to option. 

The Bulls offense has struggled running through Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen, and though there is still plenty of hope for oft-injured Wendell Carter Jr., he shouldn't stop Chicago from taking Toppin if the Bulls deem him the top talent on the board. 

If the Cavaliers were only drafting to fill positional needs, they'd really limit their choices, which is something they can't afford to do. They don't have an untouchable long-term keeper on the roster. Though they aren't in win-now mode, general manager Koby Altman may even value Toppin's ability to produce faster results given how little progress the team has made under his watch the past few years. 

The Hawks just traded for Clint Capela, but his stock has fallen recently, and injuries have limited his availability. He's also on a relatively tradable contract. They could go all-in with offense and pair John Collins with Toppin.

And then there are teams looking to trade up.

Scouts and agents have mentioned that the Pistons, New York Knicks, Phoenix Suns and Boston Celtics have expressed interest in moving up, though it's unclear who they'd target. The Suns and Celtics are motivated to win now and could view Toppin as an immediate contributor. He could also interest the Pistons and Knicks, organizations with blank-canvas rosters and possible motivation to add a sure thing. 

Teams ultimately see a degree of certainty with Toppin, and it's being valued more during a draft loaded with uncertainty. 


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