With a bounty of draft picks from the 2019 Tradepocalypse summer, the Thunder will be scouting young prospects at the top of recruiting and draft classes once again. Daily Thunder will keep you informed on whether those players look like good targets for Oklahoma City.
At a glance
- Concerns about his shooting. He’s already 22 and the mechanics aren’t great. Sub-70 percent from the free throw line is troubling longterm as well.
- He’s more fluid as an athlete than you’d think just by looking at his frame.
- A lot of his scoring comes from the post.
By all accounts, 2019 was an excellent year for Obi Toppin. A virtual unknown nationally prior to the season, Toppin’s play at Dayton so far this season has thrust him into contention to be the first big man off the board after Memphis’ James Wiseman. He’s averaging 19.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game while shooting 62 percent from the floor. Toppin is a bit of a tweener due to his size and skillset. Offensively, he’s best as a small ball 5, but he’s not going to hold up as the primary rim protector on defense.
There’s not really an NBA archetype for what Toppin is at Dayton, so it’s hard to pinpoint what he’ll bring to the next level. But athletically, he’s going to cause some problems for some centers. He’s quick enough and skilled enough to beat defenders to the spot despite not being super fluid. His ability to switch between the 4 and the 5 makes him an ideal component on a contender in the era of positionless basketball. Toppin is also incredibly explosive — this really stood out in the Colorado game on a number of occasions.
Perhaps Toppin’s best offensive skill that should translate to the next level is his touch with finishing around the rim. He’s also a good enough passer to make quick decisions as he rolls to the basket.
I’m not sure how much of what Toppin does will translate to an NBA floor. His post moves are dominant in the A-10, but that won’t matter much at the next level beyond his footwork in the pick-and-roll.
He’s produced great results from behind the 3-point line at Dayton (42.4 percent career on 59 attempts) but I’m skeptical of him being an above average 3-point shooter at the NBA level. For one thing, he’s shooting just 68 percent from the free throw line this year, which indicates his 3-point success could be the result of a small sample size. I also noticed a few inconsistencies in his jumper mechanics — he’ll occassionally lean back or land awkwardly even when he has space to catch-and-shoot. Those should be correctable issues, and I do expect him to shoot 3s in the NBA — just not at a 40-percent clip.
Thunder Fit: Could he play alongside Shai Gilgeous-Alexander?
The short answer is yes. Toppin profiles as a really fun pick-and-roll partner for SGA going forward, even if it’s only for spurts. Toppin’s athleticism would make him an interesting fit next to any lead ballhandler, but Shai’s creativity and length make him an especially good candidate.
However, whether or not he’s a great fit OKC depends mostly on whether you believe in his 3-point shot. If Toppin can shoot threes at an average clip for a big, he would be an intriguing fit next to Steven Adams at power forward or as a small ball 5 off the bench. But if he’s not going to be an effective shooter, it will be difficult to play him next to a non-shooter at center or as a stretch 5 since he doesn’t have the size to protect the rim.
Sam Presti could still end up drafting him as an upside play, but the fit seems like it would be awkward at first glance.
Making the pick
If Oklahoma City is going to take Toppin, I’d expect it to be with Denver’s first round pick in the mid 20s. I don’t buy the lottery hype for him, even in this draft. He’s an older prospect who likely profiles as an energy big off the bench who can’t really protect the rim. That’s valuable in certain situations, but he’s not a guy that’s going to be universally loved in draft circles.