Why it's time for Knicks to trade Obi Toppin
The trade deadline is rapidly approaching, and the Knicks are expected to be key players, but to what degree remains uncertain. One move not often discussed, but perhaps necessary, is trading Obi Toppin, their eighth overall pick in 2020.
Ever since he’s been a Knick, Toppin has been in a perpetual bind with starting power forward Julius Randle.
While the latter has consistently been the better player, thus earning the lion’s share of the minutes, Toppin has also flashed promise and is a few years Randle’s junior. The tension between fans emphasizing the present versus the future hang over these two players.
Perhaps this relationship has run its course. In year three, having displayed solid improvement, Toppin still can’t crack 16 minutes a night, with head coach Tom Thibodeau locking him into the four position, and naturally running with his two-time All-Star more.
It’s unfair to all parties. Toppin is not a Thibodeau-type player, and thus is schemed inappropriately and floats around the three-point line like Steve Novak.
If Toppin were given a chance to run spread pick-and-rolls, get out in transition and play through his mistakes, he’d probably be a much more effective player. Alas, he’s left to flail defensively and not utilize his athletic gifts enough on offense.
Randle is clearly superior, and has to hear fans chant for his understudy on a nightly basis.
If the Knicks trade Toppin, the idea would be to add a player who has a more positive impact on their rotation and works better for their coach.
Toppin’s minutes can easily go to someone like Jae Crowder, a big wing who can defend multiple positions, provide depth for RJ Barrett and Quentin Grimes, and wouldn't need the ball or any plays run for them.
Another factor at play is Toppin’s contract. His rookie deal is up after next season, and extension talks with a franchise bent on keeping you a bench player sure would be interesting.
From the Knicks' perspective, they can’t pay every one of their prospects and expect to have enough flexibility to trade or sign for a star in the future. Immanuel Quickley has proven himself way too crucial, as has Grimes, with both likely favored as long-term pieces over Toppin.
So, with Obi averaging career-highs in defensive rebounds with 6.7 per-36 minutes and three-point shooting with a 37.4 percent clip, why not deal him so everybody can provide more value than they currently are?
There are a few trade avenues the Knicks can explore with Toppin. They can flip him for a similarly-rated but better-fitting player, such as Indiana’s Chris Duarte or Houston’s Kenyon Martin, Jr. This brings up the extension question again, however.
You could also package him in a bigger deal. Pair him with Cam Reddish to bring in Josh Hart or Alex Caruso to beef up the bench.
Attaching Toppin might make offloading Evan Fournier’s contract easier. Maybe the Cleveland Cavaliers would accept the pair for Caris LeVert and Ricky Rubio, or the Houston Rockets can send Eric Gordon.
Can Toppin serve as a selling point in a bigger deal for OG Anunoby? Packaging him with an unprotected first and some filler could get the job done.
As much as watching fan favorites depart hurts, the pressure is on for the Knicks to show real competitiveness now, and trading Toppin might be the move that maximizes their chances.