New York Knicks: How would Obi Toppin/Julius Randle tandem work?

When the New York Knicks selected Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, a major question arose regarding Julius Randle’s future with the team. Toppin is an NBA ready-made power forward with fantastic transition abilities and explosive power. With Dayton the past two seasons, Toppin has increasingly gotten better, averaging 20 points and 7.5 rebounds per contest last year.

His ability to dominate on offense and fill the paint is exactly what the Knicks were looking for, but he can also shoot the basketball, finishing with a .633 field-goal percentage and .390 from beyond the arc. He averaged 2.6 three-point attempts per game last year but could see that increase in the NBA as he develops. Toppin is a 22-year-old, 6-foot-9, New York native, and while he’s a bit old to be a rookie in the NBA, he should transition well to the big leagues.

Regarding Randle, who averaged 32.5 minutes per game last year with the Knicks, a career-high, his fit into Tom Thibodeau’s system could be interesting. He averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 assists per game in 2019, shouldering most of the offensive expectations, but quickly became a ball hog and simply slowed down the game too much.

The Knicks are looking to become a more transition based squad that focuses on spreading the floor and moving shooters to the corner. Their draft picks fit perfectly into that system, but Randle could become a problem with his play style.

The question is, how are they managed to incorporate both Randle and Toppin moving forward?

“I think best case, they don’t play together that often and you share the 48 power-forward minutes,’’ former NBA scout Bryan Oringher told Marc Berman of the NY Post. “You can get away with each of them as a small-ball 5 for a few minutes a game, but I really don’t think either can play the 3. As centers, they are obviously undersized, and your rim protection will be pretty porous.’’

Both are capable of playing center, but they are deficient defenders. Toppin is known for his offensive prowess and not his defense in the 3. Randle is similar but isn’t as good of a shooter — he plays more bully-ball.

Some suggest that the Knicks should try and move Randle before the season, acquiring more draft capital for the future. They have made numerous moves to acquire draft picks down the road when high school players are available (2023).

In addition, considering Obi is 22-years-old, I imagine Thibodeau will want to incorporate him into the team as much as possible, as taking minutes away from him in favor of Randle might hurt the team’s development.

I think that Thibodeau will start the season splitting minutes between the two, but ultimately favorite Toppin. The Knicks will eventually try to move Julius midseason if they don’t find a suiter earlier, turning him into assets for the future.