The New York Knicks went into the NBA Draft looking to make some savvy selections. They left the night hitting the jackpot, selecting Dayton big man Obi Toppin with the eighth overall pick.
Obi Toppin is a franchise scorer
Toppin likely fell to eight based on his potential fit with the seven teams ahead of the Knicks and the defensive knocks on his game. Should that have been enough for him to fall this far? It should not have; the Knicks have a player to build through in the Ossining native.
The Dayton product is a special player. Standing at 6-foot-9, he’s a do-it-all scorer. Toppin stretches the floor with his stable outside shooting, operates well in the post, finishes inside with ease, and has handles. Toppin is a human highlight reel. He pulls off absurd dunks in both the fastbreak and halfcourt and does so in remarkable style, whether it be 360s, tomahawks, or between-the-legs finishes.
Last season Toppin averaged 20.0 points per game while shooting 39.0 percent from beyond the arc. One of the Knicks’ most pressing issues is isolation and go-to scoring. Toppin could very well be head coach Tom Thibodeau’s preeminent source of offense. Last season the Knicks were 27th in the NBA in three-point shooting percentage (33.7 percent) and 29th in points per game (105.8). Toppin improves them in both of those categories.
His multi-dimensional offensive game is going to attract the bulk of opposing teams’ defensive attention and take some attention off RJ Barrett, who will likely be more of an isolation scorer in his second season. In back-to-back drafts, the Knicks got a player who wanted to play for them and someone who will be an indispensable source of offense.
Toppin is 22, which is considered old for a top 10 pick. On the other hand, he has physically matured, has immense shoulders which give him inside power, and he has gradually improved with physical growth. If New York took a 19-year-old, that player likely would’ve had to build muscle, grow into their frame, and it could’ve taken a few years for them to become a standout scorer.
Toppin can hit the ground running in the Big Apple.
Immanuel Quickley, Myles Powell bring shooting, scoring
President Leon Rose woke up on Wednesday with picks eight, 27, and 38. Shortly after rolling out of bed, he sent 27 and 38 to the Utah Jazz for 23. Later in the day, he sent 23 to the Minnesota Timberwolves for 25 and 33. New York then sent 33 to the Los Angeles Clippers for a 2023 second-round pick. At 25, they took Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley, who checks some boxes.
Across his two years in Lexington, Quickley was a stellar outside shooter and a leading scorer for head coach John Calipari. Last season he averaged a team-high 16.1 points per game while shooting 42.8 percent from beyond the arc and 92.3 percent from the charity stripe. The Knicks struggled to space the floor last season, and Quickley will help them in that regard.
He’ll come off the bench to stretch the floor and, in time, could be a nifty sixth man. The Knicks signed four-year Seton Hall player Myles Powell as an undrafted free agent on Thursday. Sure, he was passed on 60 times, but it’s difficult to fathom how that happened.
Powell was arguably the best player in the Big East Conference over the last two seasons; he scores. In each of his last two seasons at Seton Hall, Powell averaged 21-plus points per game, took and made clutch shots with frequency, and was one of the best scorers in the nation. Like Quickley, Powell is likely a reserve if he makes the roster. He can come off the bench as a combo guard, boosting the second unit’s offense. They need to replenish their roster from a scoring standpoint.
These guards give the Knicks much-needed shooting and scoring.
Knicks have to be meticulous in free agency
Is Toppin a great fit with the Knicks? He is not, especially given that a Thibodeau offense has never featured a big man with Toppin’s skill set. So why do you take him and don’t think twice? He’s an extraordinary talent and too captivating to pass on at eight. He has star potential and was a justifiable number one pick; you make it work. Plus, his arrival could mean that Thibodeau’s philosophies are changing in his third head-coaching gig.
Quickley is more likely than Powell to make the Knicks roster. Nonetheless, if they’re both present for the 2020-21 NBA season, they’ll come off the bench and provide a variety of scoring. Rose, Thibodeau, and friends need to be prudent in free agency, where they’ll have around $35 million in cap space.
They have two young offensive mainstays (Barrett and Toppin), a defensive backbone and alley-oop artist (Mitchell Robinson), a couple guards looking for direction (Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr.), some new backcourt recruits (Quickley and Powell), a capable young forward (Kevin Knox), and a veteran frontline scorer (Julius Randle). These pieces make for an odd puzzle but one that can be altered.
The Knicks need to add more outside shooting and defense. They have some young scorers to lean on and backcourt depth. Randle could potentially be on the move given the resources that have been allocated to the backend of their starting lineup. Such a transaction isn’t a given, though, as he’s due roughly $21 million this season and only a handful of teams have the cap room to absorb his salary. Could New York move Randle and some future picks in a package for Houston Rockets point guard Russell Westbrook in the scenario the latter gets desperate?
Maybe they bring in a veteran backcourt scorer like Brandon Knight or D.J. Augustin to show the pups the tricks of the trade? They could extend an offer sheet to Denzel Valentine; Juan Hernangomez and/or Harry Giles would provide bench scoring; big man Meyers Leonard would add outside shooting. Any move they make has to come with the foresight of how it impacts Barrett and Toppin offensively; they’re the present and future.
The New York Knicks had a phenomenal NBA Draft. Now they have to build on it.