How can Knicks’ Obi Toppin take his game to the next level? | Solid Summer League performance brews optimism

New York Knicks, Obi Toppin

When the New York Knicks drafted Obi Toppin 8th overall out of Dayton last year, they knew they were getting a player with a relentless mentality toward improvement. Toppin had an underwhelming rookie campaign last season, despite the Knicks landing the 4th seed in the Eastern Conference.

Over 62 games, Toppin averaged 11 minutes on the floor, posting 4.1 points and 2.2 rebounds. He shot 50% from the field and 30% from range, showing issues on both sides of his game. He was a defensive liability at times, and his failure to make an impact on offense stood out. However, he looked far more comfortable during the postseason, ironically. In Game 4 against the Atlanta Hawks, he shot 62% from the field, scoring 13 points.

Toppin thrives in transition, and the Knicks simply didn’t have the point guard to help him in that category. Derrick Rose doesn’t have the legs anymore to continuously get down the court fast enough, and Elfrid Payton was a liability in almost every way.

If Toppin wants to take his game to the next level, the Knicks need to play to his strengths. During the team’s first Summer League game of the year, Toppin recorded 24 points over 37 minutes of play. He shot 10-of-21 from the field and 2-of-10 from downtown. He was a menace around the rim, finishing with ease and showcasing some of his exciting athleticism that lead the Knicks to select him in the lottery last year.

While Toppin’s impact during the regular season didn’t live up to expectations, he’s confident the team is going to take a big step forward this upcoming year.

Earlier this off-season, Toppin stated, “the work that, not only myself, but the other guys is putting in… We are going to make it far in the playoffs next year.”

Adding Evan Fournier to replace Reggie Bullock and Kemba Walker to replace Payton, the team has a lot more offensive weaponry to work with. Their acquisitions should open things up for Toppin, as defenses simply hyper-focused on Julius Randle and crowded the rim. With better shooters on the perimeter, defenders will have to spread the floor, which will open up the transition game, and pick-and-rolls for Toppin, who will benefit from an entire year with good point guard play.