Obi Toppin Signs Knicks Rookie Contract After Being Drafted No. 8 Overall

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistNovember 23, 2020

Dayton's Obi Toppin (1) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Rhode Island Wednesday, March 4, 2020, in Kingston, R.I. (AP Photo/Stew Milne)
Stew Milne/Associated Press

The New York Knicks announced Monday that they signed first-round pick Obi Toppin to his first NBA contract.

Toppin was the eighth overall pick in November's draft after a breakout season at Dayton. The high-flying, sweet-shooting forward averaged 20.0 points and 7.5 rebounds during his redshirt sophomore season. The Brooklyn native said one of his goals is to bring the Knicks back to prominence.

"New York has been down a couple years, and I feel like with the guys they have now, and myself added to that, I feel like we're going to win a lot of games, and we're going to put New York back on the map, for sure," Toppin told reporters.

Toppin is one of the most offensively gifted players in the 2020 draft class but comes with question marks. At age 22, he's one of the oldest players in this class. His developmental ceiling is lower than players taken ahead of him based on age alone.

Defense is an issue for rookies as a general group, but Toppin may be the single worst defender taken in the lottery (LaMelo Ball is the closest competition). His 1.2 blocks and 1.0 steals per game last season appear solid enough but undersell Toppin's lack of lateral quickness and bend, which stick out when watching him on film.

NBA teams are almost certainly going to run him through a healthy stream of pick-and-rolls to force switches until he shows he can capably move out on the wing.

The good news: Tom Thibodeau is perhaps the greatest defensive coach of this generation. If you can't defend, Thibs simply will plaster you to the bench. There may have been no better fit for Toppin to become an acceptable defender than New York.