Everything You Need To Know About Obi Toppin

Obi Toppin was one of the most exciting players in the country this season. His athleticism and offensive versatility make him a worthy lottery pick.

Obi Toppin and the Dayton Flyers took the country by storm this season and were primed to make a deep run in the tournament before their Cinderella run was stolen. Still, Toppin's electric play was rewarded with nearly every player of the year award. With his high-flying dunks, outside shooting, and offensive versatility, Toppin proved why he deserved not only the college accolades but also the high standing in the 2020 NBA Draft class.

Toppin is another excellent story of a high school player who received zero offers from high school and continued to work and become a first-round pick. His work ethic has helped him develop from a one-year varsity player in high school to the National College Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-American.

While the National Player of the Year award is an incredible honor, it hasn't been a great indicator of professional success. Those concerns with Toppin diminish because of how translatable his offensive skill set is to the NBA game.

This season, Toppin ranked in the 99th percentile in overall scoring with 1.197 points per possession (PPP), per Synergy. While his team's offensive scheme was a significant factor in this success, Toppin's versatility made him a matchup nightmare.

In the NBA, Toppin will likely be used mostly as a stretch four who also acts as a screener. This role will allow him to utilize his athleticism running in transition, working as a rim runner, and threatening as a spot-up scorer.

Toppin is one of the most explosive players in this draft, and his transition offense is a highlight package on its own. Rewarding big men who run the floor is essential to team cohesion, and in Toppin's case, it is just a smart play as he scored 1.436 PPP (95th percentile).

Toppin is always looking to get out and run in transition where he can show off his athleticism. Sometimes this leads to defensive blunders, but typically it leads to highlight dunks like the below clip. Once Toppin's teammate deflects the inbounds pass, Toppin immediately takes off in the opposite direction. As Toppin's teammate secures the steal, Toppin hasn't beaten anyone down the floor yet, but his teammate knows to throw the ball ahead. Toppin proceeds to use his speed to chase down the pass, outrun his defender, power through the steal attempt, and finish with a thunderous dunk.

Guards who rebound, quality passing big men and coaches with high tempo offenses will love Toppin. He is continuously looking to run, and when he gets the ball in the open floor, it is an almost guaranteed bucket.

Toppin's athleticism is also a dynamic weapon in the half-court offense, especially as a rim runner. When Toppin rolled to the basket, he scored 1.417 PPP (83rd percentile). His willingness to set reliable screens helps create separation and two-on-one scenarios where he can use his explosiveness to attack the rim.

Here, we see Toppin do precisely that. Toppin's screen dislodges the ball handler's defender from the play. This forces Toppin's man to over pursue the ball-handler, opening a lane to the rim for Toppin. Since Toppin is playing center, he doesn't have to worry about a larger rim protector rotating over. Instead, Toppin skies for the lob and finishes with a dunk over the hesitant weakside defender.

In this clip, we see Toppin showcase more of his agility and footwork. As the ball-handler moves towards Toppin, Toppin quickly slips the screen. This quick move confuses his defender who goes for the switch, but more importantly, it catches the weakside defender sleeping. Toppin slips the screen and quickly rolls to the rim. As Toppin receives the pass, he pauses his momentum to avoid the rotating defender and then jumps off two feet for a big dunk.

That clip does an excellent job of displaying Toppin's floor awareness on offense. As he went to set the screen, he can see the weakside defenders are leaving the lane unattended. By slipping the screen, he eliminated their ability to rotate in a timely fashion. Instead, he took full advantage of the open lane. He also instinctually knew that at some point during his role, there would be a rotating defender. He could have easily carried his momentum to the rim full force, but that could have resulted in a charge. It's subtle, but by planting his right foot where he did, he allowed himself to avoid the rotating defender and finish with an uncontested dunk.

Toppin's explosiveness at the rim is the flare that catches your attention, but his offensive game's real substance comes with his off-ball scoring. When Toppin was spotting up, he scored 1.328 PPP (98th percentile). This ability is the primary offensive skill that NBA teams will be able to employ in their offense. Having a big man who scores 1.5 PPP (98th percentile) off the catch when spotting up is a rare weapon. This skill forces defenders to closeout more aggressively, but Toppin is more than happy to attack as he scored 1.692 PPP (99th percentile) when he attacked the rim out of spot-up situations.

Toppin's off-ball movement is key to his future offensive involvement. On the perimeter, he does a proper job of sliding into open pockets, but he is also a quality cutter. This season, Toppin scored 1.577 PPP (96th percentile) when he cut. This off-ball movement is going to be valuable going forward. Due to his defensive deficiencies, Toppin will likely play alongside a better interior defender for most of his time. To be more than just a distraction standing in the corner during pick-and-rolls and isolations, Toppin will need to continue to act as an active cutter.

In the below clip, we see how Toppin can make a continued impact when he is playing off-ball. Toppin initially sets up in the corner while they set up the pick-and-roll on the other side of the court. The defense is wholly keyed in on the pick-and-roll as the help defender leaves his rotating man to pick up the screener, and the ball-handler gets double teamed. Instead of staying in the corner where his teammate is rotating, Toppin catches his defender ball-watching. Toppin cuts baseline and finishes the lob.

The result of this play is excellent, but the movement is the critical part. Toppin's teammate would have been left wide open in the corner if Toppin's defender had stayed with him. By just having the willingness to move, Toppin is always creating situations that force the defense into making a choice.

Toppin's scoring numbers are some of the most efficient in the country. He has excellent awareness and spacing, but I still struggle to view him as developing into a star. The main reason for this is his difficulties in creating his shot.

Big men aren't typically asked to create their own shot, but the ones who can are the ones who develop into stars. This season, Toppin only made one jump shot off the dribble. Toppin's post-up numbers are impressive, 1.016 PPP (87th percentile), but those are mostly the result of abusing mismatches and smaller defenders.

When Toppin is battling larger opponents, he tends to get bullied in the post. Here, we see Toppin's inability to create in the post. From the start, Toppin is in a bad position as he receives the ball well outside the paint. Toppin proceeds to take six dribbles that cover little ground and create no space. Toppin's weak post strength results in him not getting a shot off and barely being able to pass out of it.

Overall, I like Toppin's offensive versatility. He's even shown flashes of high-level passing. His inability to create his shot lowers his ceiling from being an offensive star to a particularly good second scoring option.

As electric as Toppin is on offense, he is equally appalling on defense. With his size and athleticism, one would expect him to be a versatile defender who can help protect the rim. Unfortunately, we have seen very little, if any, of that as he doesn't stay in a defensive stance, misses rotations, gets bullied in the post, and is easy to fool with simple shot fakes.

Let's take a quick look at one of his rare flashes of quality defense before his defense gets torn to shreds. In this clip, Toppin does a decent job of sliding his feet to stay with his defender. His defensive stance isn't great, but he maintains reliable positioning. As his opponent spins, Toppin adjusts his hips well and times his jump perfectly for the block.

Ideally, this is the type of defense we'll see from Toppin. He should be a much better rim protector with his explosiveness, but he hasn't been able to figure out his positioning or timing consistently.

Similarly, to the offensive end, Toppin struggles to defend the post against bigger opponents. Here, Toppin allows his man to get into the middle of the lane with a simple power dribble. After giving up excellent positioning, Toppin gets fooled by a lackluster up-and-under move. His thirst to block shots overpowers any defensive discipline as he willingly leaves the ground and gives up a wide-open layup.

His defensive blunders are exacerbated the farther he goes from the rim too. Here, we see Toppin easily get blown past in a crucial late-game situation. From the start, Toppin is standing nearly upright, which gives him poor balance. As Toppin tries to adjust to his opponent's movement, his footwork is all over the place. He crosses his feet, has a narrow stance, and continuously brings his feet close together, all of which are major red flags.

Again, Toppin's poor footwork allows his opponent to penetrate easily. As Toppin closes out, he is far too upright and has awkwardly choppy footwork. He then bites on what is barely considered a shot fake. As he gets quickly beaten off the dribble, Toppin barely tries to recover and gets bailed out by his teammate's foul at the rim.

In these clips, Toppin is getting abused by college wings. In the NBA, teams will routinely seek him out on switches and look to take full advantage of his defensive ineptitude.

Being a lousy on-ball defender is one thing, but for Toppin to struggle with his off-ball defense, given his high offensive awareness, is inexcusable. At the bare minimum, Toppin should be a decent weakside rim protector. Instead, he is frequently caught ball-watching or just flat out missing rotations.

Here, we see Toppin completely whiff on what should be an easy double-team. As the ball enters the post, Toppin should immediately recognize that he needs to help his point guard who is matched up against a much bigger opponent. Besides having basic situational awareness, Toppin's teammate signals to Toppin that he will send him baseline right into what should have been a double. Instead, Toppin proceeds to offer no help and give up an easy layup.

To view Toppin's defensive failures as just red flags is like seeing the retreating shoreline during a tsunami as just low tide. To be even passable on defense, Toppin will have to completely overhaul every defensive habit formed over the past 22 years.

Going forward, Obi Toppin is worth a lottery pick. His offensive skill set and versatility create a myriad of options on offense. His ability to attack the rim or shoot from outside is precious in the ever-expanding NBA offense. His game is reminiscent of Kyle Kuzma and John Collins.

While I think Obi Toppin's offensive arsenal will make an impact, his defense and shot creation limit his ceiling. This draft class is full of essential role players, and Toppin isn't an exception. Based on his limitations, it would be surprising if Toppin developed into a full-fledged star, but instead into a team's second or third scoring option.

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