Knicks’ Julius Randle comes to Obi Toppin’s defense

nba: new york knicks at denver nuggets, julius randle, obi toppin
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The debate rages on: Did the New York Knicks mishandle their former first-round pick Obi Toppin before his move to the Indiana Pacers? During his stint with the Knicks, 24-year-old Toppin played 67 games. He posted an average of 7.4 points, 2.8 rebounds, and 1.0 assist per game. His shooting stats stood at .446 from the field and .344 from three-point range, all within an average playtime of 15.7 minutes. One major obstacle in Toppin’s path? The presence of All-Star power forward Julius Randle.

Though determined and resilient, Toppin struggled for consistent game time behind Randle. This limited exposure meant that the Knicks couldn’t fully utilize Toppin’s notable strengths: his dynamic athleticism and prowess in transition plays. Reflecting on his college days, Toppin had always shone as a transition player. However, the Knicks’ strategy last year leaned more towards perimeter shooting and an emphasis on physicality.

Randle vs. Toppin: A Contrast in Styles

Randle’s approach to the game is distinct. He’s all about “bullyball,” leveraging his physical strength to penetrate defenses and finish close to the basket. Though Randle did make an average of 8.3 downtown attempts per game, his forte remained his power plays inside.

On the other hand, Toppin’s style was a stark contrast, leading to potential chemistry issues on the court. While Toppin’s defensive game had room for improvement, he never really got a substantial opportunity to fine-tune his skills.

Despite these dynamics, Randle spoke up in support of Toppin. Recognizing the challenges Toppin faced playing behind him, Randle expressed his optimism for Toppin’s future with the Pacers.

“That’s my guy, man. He was in a tough spot obviously playing behind me,” Randle said. “But I just tried to help him mentally stay in it as much as he could and make the most of his opportunities. And he did. He did a great job. He was more than a great teammate. I’m excited to see him flourish out there. He’s going to be great out there.”

The Knicks Need to Fill the Gap Behind Randle

With Toppin now out of the picture, the New York Knicks are left with a void in the power forward position behind Randle. There’s talk about potentially downsizing with the recent addition of Donte DiVincenzo. Yet, striking the right balance between physicality and shooting remains paramount. The team currently lacks a fitting backup for this role. However, as the regular season approaches, there’s optimism that they might find the right fit.

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