This is fine, really.
I’m sick. Not airborne-blood-disease say-your-goodbyes sick but stay-close-to-the-bowl drink-a-lot-of-fluids and turn-on-The-Sopranos-again sick. Which is fine, if uncomfortable. Your New York Knicks rather obviously selected the John R. Wooden Award, AP Player of the Year, Oscar Robertson Trophy, NABC Player of the Year, Naismith Player of the Year, Karl Malone Award winner, Obi Toppin, with the eight pick. It was a no (right) brainer. All morning, yesterday, signs were flashing that Obi was the guy they were after and thankfully they didn’t have to move up to get him as was worryingly rumored. This evenly pitched draft was uniquely qualified to be the one where you figure out who you want on your team and secure their rights unabashedly.
There was a couple twists and turns during the day, and straight through the actual draft, as Leon Rose and the gang jockeyed for position. Ultimately their logic was two is better than three; hard to fault them for it given their already youth-heavy squad. Toppin actually enters as one of the older players on the team surprisingly enough. He also enters as a proud and humbled New Yorker, which may mean nothing to the on court product, but certainly helps sell a damn good story. Hard not to get your feeling string plucked clean off the nervous fretboard after seeing his reaction.
— NEW YORK KNICKS (@nyknicks) November 19, 2020
Down the line a little ways, the Knicks selected Leandro Bolmaro at 23, who seemed legitimately ecstatic. When they interviewed him, he really wanted to let you know he intended to enjoy it. I was through the roof too. I think Bolmaro will be a fun guy for a team that likes to play fast, defend and put all kinds of mustard on the basketball.
Well before he could say “enjoy” one more time, the Knicks traded his ass to Minnesota to snare the 25th pick, Immanuel Quickley from Kentucky, and got the 33rd pick which became Daniel Oturu, a short center from Minnesota who was immediately traded. That got the Knicks a second round pick from the Clippers via Detroit in the 2023 draft. Which is looking like the year when age restrictions will be lifted. That means the chips could be bluer than usual in a few years.
In any case, the question now is how did the Knicks grade out.
8. Obi Toppin, C+
6’9”, 220, Dayton Fliers
That may seem like a dig at Obi but the truth of the matter is there weren’t a bevy of truly A+ picks to be had in this draft anywhere. He doesn’t fill any specific need nor was he a swing for the fences. He’ll need major work on defense to get up to a sub par level much less be an average defender. Then on offense, he’ll be pushed down a spot from the center to a power forward. That adjustment could be crucial to his success. If he takes to it, you’ll be looking at a quality offensive big man. If he struggles to find his footing, the speed and pressure of the NBA may overwhelm this late bloomer.
His immediate strengths are at the rim and wing-corner shooting. New York will have to find ways to get him more shots from those areas because despite shooting 40% from deep over two seasons of college ball, his volume was crucially low at about two a game, and none of them are really self created much less heavily contested. He’s also a keen passer when something opens up unexpectedly but he’ll need to chisel away at some of his rougher spots; like what is the best play in a dribble hand off situation.
Situations really do matter and certainly there are guys who will succeed because of a snug fit on their new teams. That may not be the case so much with Toppin, the Knicks’ best player at the moment, Julius Randle, plays the same position and was a Kentucky alum. If newly hired development coach, Kenny Payne, has any say, Toppin probably takes the back seat. Being a New York native could be a tipping point as well, whether it works for or against him remains to be seen. Obviously none of these guys make it this far without intensely high motors, but Obi will have to raise his levels to meet the challenge.
If all goes according to plan, the Knicks may have drafted a stretch four who can hammer down any nail a crafty guard sets up for him. That’s a useful player. Only problem is they’ll need a ratchet set that instantly switches to the correct size for the innumerable bolts that will aim to elude him on the defensive end.
25. Immanuel Quickley, B-
6’3”, 188, Kentucky Wildcats
Last I checked the Knicks are completely devoid of reliable shooting and Quickley is nothing if not a reliable shooter. He connected on 92% of his free throws on just over five attempts a game as a sophomore and his stroke from deep has plenty of hot spots!
At 25 you need to identify who you think will raise your floor and Quickley seems invested in being that type of guy for the Knicks. A lanky defender that can hit the triple, while leaving room for guys like RJ Barrett and maybe Frank Ntilikina to get a feel for the ball as well. Quickley can do nominal point guard things but isn’t exactly going to break down defenses and punish you at the rim. He’ll be best served helping initiate and then cutting and strutting away from action to see if he can’t shake loose around a screen.
Speculation that the Knicks could have taken him later in the draft seems sensible, yea maybe he’d have been there at 38 or 33. On the other hand, getting him in the first round- if you believe this is the guy for your squad- adds an extra bit of padding to his rookie contract that should make the front office feel comfortable even if you personally had a different player in mind. He’ll lock in on defense, he’ll knock ‘em home on offense. He also brings an exceptional work ethic to the crew. Solid selection in the end.
No matter what, I’m always excited to see some new energy infused in the Garden. Let’s go the Knicks and free agency is just around the corner. The full roster will be taking shape in no time!