Knicks’ Obi Toppin projects confidence as he targets big sophomore season jump

As Team USA prepares for the Tokyo Olympics this summer, New York Knicks’ rookies Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley were asked to join the USA Select Team. Both will work alongside some of the world’s best basketball players, soaking up their knowledge like a sponge while also looking to iron out some of their own kinks.

Toppin, who was selected 8th overall in the 2020 NBA draft, had a quiet rookie season with New York. He averaged 4.1 points, 2.2 rebounds and shot nearly 50% from the field over just 11 minutes per game. His counterpart, Quickley, had a far more impressive and productive first season in the NBA, but that doesn’t mean the young power forward won’t take a massive developmental leap next season.

The coaching staff gave Toppin words of wisdom before joining the USA Select Team in Vegas, stating:

“The message, [the coaches] told me coming here is just be a sponge,’’ Toppin said, per Marc Berman of the New York Post. “There’s great coaches and players out here and just get better and develop my game. I’m working really hard in this offseason to be better for my second season coming up. It’s going be a lot different than the first season.’’

The opportunity the 23-year-old Brooklyn native has is meaningful, spending time alongside players like Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard. Quickley also mirrored his excitement regarding learning from some of the best in the NBA this summer.

“It’s amazing,’’ Toppin expressed. “I‘m not going to say I had the best rookie year. But for me to have the opportunity to come out here and be part of USA and help prepare the Olympic guys for their time in Tokyo, to have that opportunity is amazing and I wouldn’t change it for the world.’’

The Knicks saw a better version of Toppin during the post-season:

Toppin gained a touch of confidence during the postseason, scoring a high of 13 against Atlanta in Game 4, an eventual loss. During the contest, he also recorded three rebounds and shot 62% from the field and 33% from downtown. As his confidence built, his production also increased, which is a positive sign for a player trying to adjust to the NBA.

“I feel the playoffs was definitely a confidence-booster,’’ Toppin said. “I felt myself getting better. But it was the work I was doing every single day before that. My teammates had confidence in me and confidence I could do what I had to do.’’

Aside from the Select Team, Toppin is also engaging in the Summer League, working with Quickley and Luca Vildoza, the Knicks’ foreign signing prior to the end of the 2020 season. If all three can elevate their game ahead of the upcoming year, the Knicks could have a few secret weapons up their sleeve, ready to make an impact. Toppin, who represented one of the best transition scores in college during his time at Dayton, is looking to become a force as an athletic frontcourt option with adequate shooting prowess.