Despite an unfortunate loss to the Toronto Raptors on Friday evening, the New York Knicks enjoyed a career night from second-year forward Obi Toppin.
Toppin, who has been relishing more minutes as of late, posted 19 points and 10 rebounds in the defeat over 24 minutes, his highest total in the month of December. In fact, 24 minutes was the most he played since opening night against the Boston Celtics in the Knicks’ double-overtime win.
It is clear that head coach Tom Thibodeau is factoring in Toppin more frequently due to his incredible athleticism and fantastic stamina. Toppin exerts maximum energy and effort whenever heâ€™s on the floor, chasing down loose balls and being proactive with his runs to the basket. Against Toronto, he shot 43% from the field but once again struggled from deep, hitting on just 20% of his shots.
This season, Toppin is shooting 54% from the field and just 19.5% from three-point range, a disappointing number that needs to improve moving forward. However, New York has finally cracked the code on his usage and production, focusing on transition basketball.
Luckily, the Knicks’ two best players in transition are Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, who work splendidly off one another. Quickley has become a fantastic facilitator for Toppin and his electrifying dunks.
Quickley has also enjoyed significant minutes with the second team, earning 20+ in every game this month, including a 38-minute outing against the Chicago Bulls on December 2. Whenever Quickley is on the floor, the Knicks have more energy, but Thibodeau has also looked to pair Toppin with fellow power forward Julius Randle.
As the team continues to build confidence with one another and develop chemistry, it’s clear they are experiencing deficiencies with communication and positioning. They simply lack the fundamental flow on offense and find themselves crashing to the basket or falling back without any attempt at an offensive rebound. Toppin showcased his utility in the paint, with his eight defensive and two offensive rebounds against Toronto.
Not only was Obi’s 19 points a season-high, but his 10 rebounds as well, hopefully turning a new chapter on his dominant transition play. Nonetheless, until he can improve his shooting abilities and efficiency from beyond the arc, he will remain a one-tool player that makes up for a lack of defensive efficiency with a high work rate. In the meantime, the Knicks may have cracked the code on curating an impact, but he still has a lot of developing left to do.