Obi Toppin’s coexistence with Julius Randle a cause for Knicks concern

Obi Toppin’s coexistence with Julius Randle a cause for Knicks concern

The only drawback in drafting 6-foot-9 Obi Toppin last week is that the Knicks’ best player, Julius Randle, plays the same position — power forward.

Toppin’s explosive game, decent 3-point shooting touch and Brooklyn heritage has given Knicks fans something to get excited about for the future.

In the present, how Toppin and Randle, who is 6-foot-8, coexist may decide whether the Knicks can beat the odds and break their seven-year playoff drought.

Most scouts believe Toppin, the Dayton dunk machine, isn’t versatile enough to slide to the 3 because of his defensive shortcomings.

Hence, Toppin and Randle may be unplayable as a tandem. The only possibility is using the duo in a small-ball lineup of Toppin at the 4 and Randle the 5.

That could be a defensive nightmare, scouts say.

“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 The 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.’’

Randle has just one fully guaranteed year left on his contract. If the Knicks don’t opt into the final 2021-22 season at $20 million, Randle counts as $4 million of dead cap space in 2021.

Toppin’s arrival gives more motivation for the Knicks to trade Randle before then. However, the Knicks are expecting a more mature, smarter Randle.

Knicks president Leon Rose was unavailable for comment Wednesday. He has not spoken to the media since July, when he hired Tom Thibodeau.

“It’s not a great fit — both are really 4’s,’’ one Western Conference scout said. “If they are playing with [Mitchell] Robinson at 5, who guards the 3? Toppin may be better suited to do that, but that’s only relative to Randle. Neither are equipped to guard mobile small forwards.”

Oringher — who scouted for the Wizards, Raptors and Hawks — compiled an 11-minute video montage for his YouTube channel and Twitter account.

Toppin has been compared most to Amar’e Stoudemire. Oringher projects Toppin perhaps not as a superstar but a good scorer who has a high basketball IQ, makes the extra pass, has a decent 3-point shot and who can get his points off pick-and-rolls at the rim or pick-and-pops in mid-range. His biggest concern is Toppin isn’t a good ball-handler.

But he makes up for it in being intelligent at reading defenses, Oringher notes. At least at a mid-major college.

“He keeps the ball moving side to side well,’’ Oringher said. “That’s something Randle struggles with. Despite being a pretty good passer, Julius just doesn’t have great feel and the ball sticks a lot or stays on the same side. Obi keeps the ball moving side to side. So he’ll get mostly pick and pop opportunities, and it’ll be on how well he shoots the ball.

“When teams switch smalls onto him to take away his pop looks, then that’s when you see some of the Amar’e come out — dominating smalls in the post, catching lobs.’’

obi toppin presents a problem for julius randle and the knicks
Obi Toppin and Julius RandleAP Photo; Corey Sipkin

As a sophomore, Toppin won a host of College Player of the Year awards as the Flyers compiled a 29-2 record.

Toppin is the only player aside from Zion Williamson to score at least 20 points with seven rebounds and shoot better than 60 percent across the past five seasons. He averaged 20 points on 63.3 percent shooting — 39-percent from 3.

Oringher cautions however, Toppin could be “hesitant’’ to shoot the 3 and showed video clips of the 22-year-old passing up open looks. Toppin took just 2.6 treys per game.

Defensively Toppin is “a mixed bag’’ because he lacks lower-body strength. Oringher’s concern is he’ll be easily overpowered inside against bigger 4’s and 5’s, and has below average foot speed as a perimeter on-ball defender.

One scout says if Thibodeau wants to sacrifice defense for offense, he can go with a Toppin-Randle-Robinson frontcourt. Toppin has little time to establish chemistry with Randle because of a shortened training camp that won’t feature group practices until Dec. 6. (Individual workouts commence Dec. 1 while COVID-19 testing is completed.)

In an appearance on “The Michael Kay Show” on Wednesday, Toppin said he was not worried about the lack of summer league and voluntary scrimmages that normally occur before camp.

“It’s not a challenge at all,’’ Toppin said. “It’s a blessing. When the time comes, I’ll be able to show my ‘A’ game.’’


Source : Marc Berman Link

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