Obi Toppin

Knicks Notes: Toppin, Randle, Rivers, Quickley

The Knicks are excited about lottery pick Obi Toppin, but there are concerns about his fit alongside Julius Randle, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post. Both are natural power forwards, and many scouts tell Berman that Toppin doesn’t have the versatility to play small forward in the NBA.

“I think best case, they don’t play together that often and you share the 48 power-forward minutes,’’ former NBA scout Bryan Oringher said. “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 is headed into the final fully guaranteed year of the contract he signed last summer. He would eat up $4MM in cap space if the Knicks cut him loose before the 2021/22 season, so there’s incentive to trade him before then and let Toppin become the starter at power forward.

There’s more from New York:

  • The Knicks’ point guard situation may be even more muddled than it was last season, contends Greg Joyce of The New York Post. Elfrid Payton, Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr., who shared the job a year ago, are all still with the team, as well as free agent addition Austin Rivers and first-round pick Immanuel Quickley. New York missed out on free agent targets Fred VanVleet and D.J. Augustin.
  • Rivers’ new deal will pay him $3.5MM this season, $3.3MM is 2021/22 and $3.15MM in 2022/23, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The second and third years won’t become guaranteed until seven days after the final day of the moratorium for each season.
  • In a lengthy interview, Quickley talks to Steve Serby of The New York Post about his experiences at Kentucky and his hopes for the NBA. “My whole life I wasn’t ranked,” Quickley said. “I had just gotten ranked like my junior and senior year. And then I come into Kentucky, people don’t believe that I’m gonna be good enough to be able to … I’m not the quote unquote usual Kentucky player like John Wall or De’Aaron Fox or something like that. But I still came in and had success. And then I think it’s a lot of people that still doubt me coming into the league, don’t think I can play point guard, don’t think I’m strong enough or things like that, so just always trying to prove the doubters wrong and prove myself right.”

Knicks Sign Obi Toppin To Rookie Deal

The Knicks have announced (via Twitter) that they have inked their 2020 No. 8 lottery pick Obi Toppin to his rookie contract.

The former Dayton forward will earn $4,862,040 in his rookie year and about $22.1MM over the first four years of his NBA career, unless he accepts a deal worth less than the maximum allowable 120% of the rookie scale. A full list of anticipated rookie scale salary figures is viewable here.

The 22-year-old 6’9″ Brooklyn native played two years for Dayton, averaging 20.0 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and 2.2 APG across 31 games during his sophomore season (all starts). Toppin was named the Atlantic 10 Player of the Year and the National College Player of the Year in 2019/20.

Toppin marks the first draft pick of new Knicks team president Leon Rose, and will join new head coach Tom Thibodeau‘s revamped New York roster for the 2020/21 season. This offseason, the Knicks appear to be mostly in asset-gathering mode, having made two deals to turn Ed Davis into three future second-round picks and having avoided signing big-money free agents like Fred VanVleet or Gordon Hayward or (thus far) trading for frustrated Rockets All-Star Russell Westbrook.

Knicks Notes: Bertans, Randle, Toppin, Point Guards

Wizards sharpshooter Davis Bertans could be a free agent option for the Knicks if they can’t land Gordon Hayward, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post, who says Bertans is high on the club’s wish list. New York has a need for outside shooting and Bertans is one of the best in the league. He ranked third last season in three-pointers taken and made, while hitting them at a 42.4% clip.

Like Hayward, Bertans will carry an expensive price tag and there will be plenty of competition for his services. Washington will make keeping him a priority, and the Spurs would like to bring him back after trading him away to open cap space in an ill-fated attempt to sign Marcus Morris.

The Knicks are one of the few teams entering free agency with ample cap space, roughly $35MM after clearing out the roster Thursday and acquiring Ed Davis from Utah. Berman notes that a sign-and-trade with Washington could be possible, with New York throwing in a couple of the 2023 second-rounders it acquired this week.

There’s more Knicks news to pass along:

  • Julius Randle‘s future in New York could be shaky after the Knicks drafted his apparent replacement in Obi Toppin, states Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic. Randle averaged 19.5 points and 9.7 rebounds per game during his first season with the team, but shot a disappointing 46% from the floor and wasn’t able to become the focus of the offense. He will make $18.9MM this season, but only has a $4MM guarantee on his $19.8MM contract for 2021/22.
  • In addition to his overall skills, Toppin brings an electrifying athleticism that should make him a fan favorite at Madison Square Garden, notes David Waldstein of The New York Times“I don’t rank his dunks,” said Dayton head coach Anthony Grant, “but he will definitely excite a crowd with his explosiveness, variety and showmanship. He’s fun to watch; must-see TV.”
  • For all the excitement about the Knicks’ draft, they still haven’t filled their most pressing need, which is finding a point guard, contends Mike Vaccaro of The New York Post. The decision to part with Elfrid Payton leaves Frank Ntilikina and Dennis Smith Jr. as the only point guards currently on the roster. Options include trading for Russell Westbrook or making a huge offer to free agent Fred VanVleet, but Vaccaro suggests the Knicks might wait for a long-term solution until next year’s draft when Cade Cunningham, Caleb Love and DJ Steward may all be available.

Cavs Discussing No. 5 Pick With Knicks, Others

The Cavaliers are receiving interest in the No. 5 overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com, who reports that the Pistons (No. 7), Knicks (No. 8), and Celtics (No. 14) are among the teams that have engaged in discussions with Cleveland.

The Knicks just moved up from No. 27 to No. 23 in a trade with Utah and may try to package that pick with No. 8 in an attempt to improve their lottery pick, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Knicks and Cavs have been the two teams in the top eight most frequently connected to Dayton forward Obi Toppin, so it’s possible he could be the target on New York’s radar in a move up, though that’s not confirmed.

The Pistons, meanwhile, have been linked often to Florida State’s Patrick Williams. If he’s still on the board at No. 5, Detroit may have interest in moving up to land him — or to leapfrog Atlanta at No. 6 for Tyrese Haliburton, Fedor suggests.

According to Fedor, the Cavs have their eye on a number of players in the second tier of the draft, including Toppin, Haliburton, Deni Avdija, and Isaac Okoro, among others. Moving down to No. 7 or No. 8 could allow them to “declutter their options” while picking up an extra asset or two.

It’s unclear how interested the Cavaliers would be in moving all the way down to No. 14, which is Boston’s top first-rounder. Cleveland sees a drop in talent after the top 10 or 11 prospects in this year’s draft class, says Fedor. There has been some speculation about a possible Gordon Hayward trade involving the Cavs and Celtics, but it’s not clear if that’s something the two sides have even discussed.

Draft Rumors: Hornets, Ball, Wolves, Cavs, Achiuwa, Hawks, More

Assuming the Hornets keep the No. 3 pick in tonight’s NBA draft, team owner Michael Jordan has given the “stamp of approval” to select LaMelo Ball, league sources tell Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. James Wiseman has long been considered to be atop Charlotte’s wish list, but if he and Anthony Edwards are the first two players off the board, Ball may be the top prospect available.

O’Connor suggests that “at this stage” it seems as if USC big man Onyeka Okongwu is no longer in serious consideration for the Hornets at No. 3. It’s worth noting that ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast that there has been some medical-related chatter on Okongwu recently that could affect his stock, though Windhorst cautioned that may just be a smokescreen from a team with interest in him.

Here are several more rumors worth passing along, as we prepare for what should be an eventful 2020 NBA draft:

  • Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report (Twitter link) is hearing that the Timberwolves continue to operate as if they don’t want to pick at No. 1. Sources tell Wasserman that Minnesota is even signaling it could make a pick for another team – such as Wiseman for the Hornets – and try to figure out a deal later.
  • According to O’Connor, the Cavaliers are interested in potentially trading down a little and still selecting Dayton forward Obi Toppin, who has been linked to them frequently as a potential target at No. 5. O’Connor suggests the Pistons (No. 7) could be one potential trade partner for the Cavs if Detroit wants to move up to secure Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • Sources tell both O’Connor and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic that the Wizards (No. 9) are high on Memphis power forward Precious Achiuwa. Krawczynski says the Suns (No. 10) are “fond of” Achiuwa as well.
  • Conversations between the Hawks and Timberwolves about a swap that would send the No. 6 pick to Minnesota for No. 17 and Jarrett Culver have stalled, per Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Atlanta would be open to the idea, but the Wolves have become hesitant about moving Culver unless it helps them land a star, according to Kirschner and Krawczynski. Kirschner adds that talks between the Hawks and teams looking to move up in the draft have “cooled down” as of late.
  • While the Celtics have explored packaging their three first-round picks (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) to move into the mid-lottery, teams in that range have indicated they’d like to stay there, tweets Adam Himmelsbach of The Boston Globe.

O’Connor’s Latest: Hornets, Knicks, Toppin, Spurs, Harris, More

League sources have long said that the Hornets‘ preference on draft night would be adding a big man, either by trading up for James Wiseman or by picking Onyeka Okongwu, writes Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. However, according to O’Connor, there are some people in Charlotte’s front office who like the idea of drafting LaMelo Ball if he’s available.

As O’Connor notes, one potential avenue for the Hornets if Wiseman is off the board at No. 3 and Ball is available would be to trade down with a team like Chicago or Detroit that might be eyeing Ball. In that scenario, Charlotte could theoretically pick up an extra asset or two while still having the opportunity to select Okongwu.

Here are a few more of the most interesting tidbits from O’Connor’s latest mock draft at The Ringer:

  • O’Connor’s sources believe the Knicks will select Obi Toppin if he’s available at No. 8. If the Dayton forward makes it past Cleveland at No. 5, there’s a chance he’ll still be on the board for New York.
  • The Spurs “love” Villanova forward Saddiq Bey, according to O’Connor, who says San Antonio is also one of multiple teams with interest in trading up for Florida State’s Patrick Williams.
  • “Everyone around the league” thinks that the Thunder will look to trade up to land seven-footer Aleksej Pokusevski, who has been frequently linked to Oklahoma City in large part due to his agent’s connection to general manager Sam Presti. Agent Jason Ranne used to work in the Thunder’s front office.
  • Within his note on the Nets‘ potential pick at No. 19, O’Connor cites sources who say that Brooklyn is likely to re-sign free agent sharpshooter Joe Harris.
  • The Nuggets are thought to be targeting a frontcourt player at No. 22, league sources tell O’Connor, who identifies Isaiah Stewart and Zeke Nnaji as a couple possibilities.

Draft Rumors: Wolves, Edwards, Ball, P. Williams, Hawks, Knicks, More

With the 2020 NBA draft just two days away, several draft experts are publishing their final mocks of the year, nearly five months after the event was initially scheduled to take place. Jonathan Givony of ESPN, Jeremy Woo of SI.com, Sam Vecenie of The Athletic, and Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report are among those who published new mock drafts today. Let’s round up a few of the key pieces of intel from those mocks…

  • Sources tell Vecenie that the Timberwolves still haven’t finalized a decision on what they’ll do with their No. 1 pick, as they expect “real” trade offers to start coming in during the next couple days. However, Givony and Woo have both heard that most teams around the NBA are operating as if the Wolves will select Anthony Edwards if they stay put.
  • LaMelo Ball‘s private workouts with teams last week were strong, according to Givony, who suggests that the Warriors were among the teams impressed by what they saw from Ball. Still, Givony and other draft experts view James Wiseman as Golden State’s most likely pick at No. 2.
  • There has been plenty of chatter about Florida State forward Patrick Williams, whose ceiling is as high as No. 4 to the Bulls, according to both Woo and Givony.
  • Opposing front offices say the Hawks (No. 6) have been the most active team in trade talks, according to Givony, who says Atlanta could push for an impact player (such as Jrue Holiday or Victor Oladipo) or trade down and pick up another young player.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Knicks (No. 8) appear to be “looking hardest” at Devin Vassell, Isaac Okoro, and Kira Lewis Jr. Sources have also linked Obi Toppin to New York for some time, per Woo, though the Dayton forward is less likely to be on the board at No. 8.
  • Assuming the Suns keep the No. 10 pick, sharpshooter Aaron Nesmith is thought to be high on their list, says Wasserman.
  • While the Celtics have looked into packaging their three first-rounders (Nos. 14, 26, and 30) for a mid-lottery pick, interest in that sort of deal appears to be lukewarm, according to Woo, who says Boston may be more likely to make smaller trades with their picks.
  • Sources tell Wasserman that the Trail Blazers (No. 16) have expressed interest in Serbian forward Aleksej Pokusevski, while Vecenie says Jay Scrubb‘s name is the one he has heard linked most frequently to Portland.
  • The Bucks‘ pick at No. 24 is one to watch in trade talks as Milwaukee tries to upgrade its roster, writes Vecenie. If they keep the pick, Josh Green is among the options the Bucks are eyeing, per Wasserman.

Cavs Zeroing In On Deni Avdija, Obi Toppin?

Multiple reports this week have indicated that the Cavaliers appear to be zeroing in on Israeli wing Deni Avdija and Dayton forward Obi Toppin with the fifth overall pick in next Wednesday’s draft.

John Hollinger of The Athletic wrote within his mock draft on Tuesday that Avdija and Toppin are the only two names he has heard connected to Cleveland at No. 5. Jason Lloyd of The Athletic followed that up by writing this morning that the Cavs’ choice “seems to be down to” those two players.

Sources tell Lloyd that Cavs general manager Koby Altman is high on Toppin, while several other members of his staff are leaning toward Avdija.

There’s a widespread belief that LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, and James Wiseman will be the first three players to come off the board in the 2020 NBA draft, in some order. If that’s the case, the Cavs can be confident that at least one of Toppin or Avdija would be available at No. 5. It’s not clear which direction they’d go if both players are still on the board, though it’s worth noting that Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported on Thursday that executives believe Avdija won’t slip past No. 5.

The Cavs have used their last two lottery picks on guards – Collin Sexton and Darius Garland – and have a number of veteran bigs up front, including Kevin Love, Andre Drummond, and Larry Nance Jr. As such, Avdija’s fit on the wing is obvious.

Toppin’s fit is less clear, since he’s a power forward and the Cavs already have a few options there. However, Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com has said for weeks that some members of the organization think the roster could use another long-term frontcourt piece, with Tristan Thompson facing free agency and Drummond on an expiring deal. There are also some concerns about Toppin’s defense, but his shortcomings on that end aren’t considered a deal-breaker for Cleveland, per Fedor.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, VanVleet, Poirier, Toppin

Though the Raptors prefer to host their home games for the 2020/21 season in Toronto, Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca notes that the decision will ultimately be made by the Canadian government. The federal officials at the Department of Immigration, Refugees and Ottawa Citizenship, who oversee travel regulations during the COVID-19 pandemic, may hesitate to make a special exemption on extant 14-day quarantine requirements for new arrivals into the country just to accommodate visiting U.S.-based NBA personnel.

With the draft and free agency scheduled for next week, plus an expected lift on the current pause on trades, time is running out for Raptors ownership to keep Toronto in Toronto.

Nashville, Tampa, Kansas City, Buffalo and Newark have all been floated as stateside alternative options for Toronto set up shop this season, per Grange and Eric Koreen of The Athletic“Our focus is on playing in Toronto,” a team spokesperson said yesterday, per Koreen.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, one of the top free agents during the 2020 offseason, stated on J.J. Redick and Tommy Alter’s podcast The Old Man And The Three that money will be important in his offseason decision-making. He elaborated on the matter, per Joshua Howe of Sportsnet.ca. “I’m trying to get paid, man,” VanVleet said. “I won a championship and now it’s time to cash out.”
  • Celtics center Vincent Poirier is hoping for a larger role in Boston this season. Keith P Smith of Celtics Blog breaks down a conversation between Poirier and French outlet We Sport. “I don’t know where I’ll be,” Poirier said, “but in my head it’s obvious that I’m not doing one more season at the end of the bench to applaud.”
  • Brooklyn native Obi Toppin has worked out for four squads: the Timberwolves, the Hornets, the Cavaliers, and his hometown Knicks. Though New York has the lowest draft pick among these squads, the club is apparently hopeful to add the 6’9″ forward on November 18, per Steve Popper of Newsday. “They have a great organization,” Toppin commented during a Zoom chat today. “It would be great to go home. But there’s a lot of teams that are in front of them that would be great, too.”

Draft Notes: Edwards, Okoro, Toppin, Haliburton, Hampton

Former Georgia guard Anthony Edwards has long been considered a strong bet to be one of the first three players off the board in the 2020 NBA draft, and his list of workouts confirms as much. Speaking today to reporters, including Mark Medina of USA Today (Twitter link), Edwards said he has worked out for the Timberwolves, Warriors, and Hornets, the teams that hold 2020’s top three picks.

That doesn’t necessarily guarantee that Edwards will be selected by one of those three teams, but he also said today that he hasn’t had any contact with the Bulls, who hold the No. 4 pick, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). That’s a reasonably solid sign that Chicago doesn’t expect him to be available.

Here’s more on the draft:

  • Lottery prospects Isaac Okoro, Obi Toppin, and Tyrese Haliburton have only worked out so far for teams holding top-eight picks. Okoro has worked out for the Timberwolves, Warriors, and Cavaliers (Twitter link via Rod Beard of The Detroit News); Toppin has auditioned for the Wolves, Cavs, Hornets, and Knicks (Twitter link via Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com); and Haliburton has had workouts for the Wolves, Warriors, Bulls, and Pistons (Twitter link via Beard).
  • RJ Hampton has auditioned for a wider range of teams, telling reporters today that he worked out for the Cavaliers, Pistons, Wizards, Celtics, Magic, Nets, and Nuggets (Twitter link via Ian Begley of SNY.tv). While three of those clubs have top-10 picks, three are outside the lottery, including Denver at No. 22.
  • After announcing earlier this week that 86 early entrant prospects had remained in the 2020 draft pool, the NBA announced today that two of those prospects submitted their paperwork in time to withdraw. Spanish forwards Sergi Martinez and Joel Parra have pulled out of the draft, per the league, leaving 84 early entrants – including 13 international prospects – eligible to be picked next Wednesday.