Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2019-20 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.
Today, 2020 NBA Draft prospect Obi Toppin takes centre stage.
Context: In his first big board for the 2020 NBA Draft back in June, NBA.com Draft expert Eric Fawcett ranked Dayton's Obi Toppin as the No. 3 prospect in this year's class.
In reading Fawcett's reasoning behind ranking Toppin as high as he did, this jumped out to me: "He's got NBA size, NBA explosiveness and NBA shooting ability, which makes him bust-proof." Why? It's not the first time I have heard about Toppin having an incredibly high floor, meaning the worst-case outcome for his development is still a solid NBA player. He's expected to be among the first players to hear their name called because of it - some mock drafts have him going second overall - but there are questions about how high his ceiling is given his strengths and weaknesses.
To get a better understanding of his game, let's take a closer look at one of the 22-year-old's plays from this season.
The play: Dayton's Rodney Chatman throws an alley-oop to Toppin.
Breakdown: With a smaller defender guarding him, Toppin gives the ball up to Dayton's Jalen Crutcher and positions himself directly in front of Crutcher in the post to take advantage of the size difference.
Crutcher tries to enter the ball to Toppin, but George Washington's Chase Parr and Maceo Jack provide help from the opposite side of the court to clog the paint and take away a clear passing lane. It forces Toppin to readjust, leaving him without much room to create something for himself if he were to receive the ball.
Rather than forcing a pass to Toppin, Crutcher kicks the ball to Chatman at the top of the 3-point line. Toppin wisely adjusts to open up another passing lane.
As he does, both Parr and Jack recover to their assignments on the 3-point line, which opens up the paint again. Chatman and Toppin immediately take advantage, with Chatman leading Toppin to the basket with an alley-oop.
Even with a defender on him, Toppin catches the alley-oop from Chatman and throws down a big-time dunk that he gets fouled on.
Why it matters: One player Toppin has been compared to in the lead-up to the draft is Amar'e Stoudemire. This play should be a clear example of why. In addition to playing the same position and having similar physical tools as Stoudemire, Toppin is an incredible athlete who lives above the rim. He was a dunking machine in college and he should have even more room to work with in the NBA.
Where Toppin separates himself from a young Stoudemire is with his ability to space the floor out to the 3-point line. He wasn't much of a shooter in his freshman season at Dayton, but Toppin attempted 2.6 3-point attempts per game as a sophomore and made them at a 39.0 percent clip, both of which are encouraging numbers for a power forward. He wasn't just a corner 3-point shooter either. The bulk of Toppin's 3-point attempts this season came from above the arc.
If his 3-point shooting translates to the NBA and continues to improve, Toppin should be able to make an immediate impact as an offensive rebounder, rim runner, roller, cutter and shooter, which is why he's considered to be "bust-proof" by some. Just imagine him getting out in transition with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson in Golden State or running pick-and-rolls with Trae Young in Atlanta or sharing the court with a floor-spacing big like Karl-Anthony Towns in Minnesota. With how comfortable and effective he already is playing without the ball in his hands, Toppin should be the beneficiary of a lot of easy NBA buckets from the get-go.
There's more to Toppin's game than dunks and 3s as well. He's capable of punishing guards in the post - hence why George Washington provided as much help as they did when he had a smaller defender on him - and he's a better passer than his stats indicate. Put it all together, and he's tailor-made for today's NBA.
On offence, at least.
The biggest concerns with Toppin come on the other end of the floor. In theory, he's someone who could play centre in small-ball lineups and power forward in traditional lineups because he can play inside and out, but he's not quite quick enough on his feet to guard the perimeter or big enough to anchor a defence. The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor wrote that Toppin has shades of Stoudemire on offence and shades of Jahlil Okafor on defence. Spencer Pearlman of The Stepien painted a similar picture, writing that he "needs work on defence all around."
Is there room for improvement? Toppin has the potential to be a capable defender if nothing else - Pearlman has his high outcome as being an "above average defender" - but it is concerning that he's as raw as he is given his age.
Still, that alone is not expected to keep him on the board for very long. It might if this year's draft were stronger, but teams will be drawn to Toppin's floor as a high-end role player for good reason. In a draft that is filled with unknowns, there's a tremendous amount of value in picking someone who has already proven that he can do more than one thing at an NBA level.
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