The New York Knicks are starting to put things together on both sides of the floor, but despite their recent turnaround, there are still some voids that need to be addressed.
Knicks: Julius Randle’s Turnaround a Saving Grace for Thin Power Forward Rotation
Zach Buckley of Bleacher Report questioned why the Knicks did not make a more concerted effort to replace Obi Toppin with a legitimate backup power forward in the offseason, saying:
“That’s what makes it curious that the Knicks didn’t do more—or do anything, really—to give themselves an alternative in case Randle turned back into a pumpkin. In fact, they traded away his longtime backup, former lottery pick Obi Toppin, and never bothered to refill that role. So, the Knicks don’t really have any other options for when Randle doesn’t have it going.”
Randle just recently emerged from a cold stretch and has played strong in the Knicks’ last two wins. Prior to that, the Knicks had no answer off the bench to spell for his inefficient shooting and add a spark to the second unit.
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A Questionable Roster Cut Could Have Solved Knicks’ Power Forward Dilemma
The Knicks let go of talented 6-8 forward Isaiah Roby prior to the start of the season, opting to sign Dylan Windler to the 12-man roster as well as Jacob Toppin — the elder Toppin brother — and Charlie Brown Jr. to two-way deals. Roby’s size, mobility, and output rivaled all of the aforementioned players and was a head-scratching omission from the roster.
While Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau came out and stated his intent to explore two big lineups with Isaiah Hartenstein or Jericho Sims backing up Randle next to Mitchell Robinson, he has yet to do so. The Knicks have gone small in their second unit, featuring Josh Hart at the four and playing defense by committee.
Do the Knicks Miss Toppin’s Production?
Toppin was a high-energy guy who came in and put pressure on defenses in the driving lanes and in the corners from outside. Though he’s the new starting power forward for the Indiana Pacers, his play has equaled that of his 2021-22 campaign.
Having a bigger, athletic forward that could defend four positions like Toppin was a plus for the Knicks that they no longer enjoy. However, Toppin’s four extra minutes of playing time have not led to an increase in scoring or shooting volume in comparison to his Knicks days despite being more efficient across the board.
Overall, Toppin’s seven points and three boards per game in his three years with the Knicks were serviceable. Moreover, his contributions on defense are missed most. The Knicks still have a chance to make additions to their G League Affiliate team as well as cultivate the younger Toppin in hopes he can produce sometime this season or beyond.