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Getting to know NBA Draft prospect Obi Toppin

Now that the NBA Draft Lottery has taken place, Toppin is one of the names being linked to the Washington Wizards with the ninth pick of the 2020 NBA Draft.

NCAA Basketball: Davidson at Dayton
Obi Toppin skying for a dunk against Davidson
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

At this point, you know the drill. They mock ‘em up and we break ‘em down for you. CBS Sports analyst Kyle Boone’s recent mock draft inspired this entry. In it, Boone had the Wizards selecting Obadiah “Obi” Toppin with the ninth pick. It’s worth noting that Onyeka Okongwu, another name frequently tied to the Wizards, was still available and went 11th in this mock draft.

They justified the selection by saying, “Washington needs a lot of help in a lot of different places, but Obi Toppin fits the biggest need and has the most potential star power.” I don’t know that I entirely agree that he fills THE biggest need but he would definitely provide them with an element they are sorely missing. For more on Toppin, here’s my player evaluation.

Obi Toppin, 6’9ish, forward

Obi Toppin is a high-flying forward who won The Associated Press’ men’s college basketball player of the year and lead the country in dunks. If you want the Wizards to start making more SportsCenter Top 10 Plays, putting Toppin out there with John Wall would certainly do that.

A John Collins-esque career is probably the best-case scenario here. Collins seems to have the tools to be a good defender but chooses not to do so. Toppin definitely chose not to try on defense at times at Dayton but he also had to carry a heavy offensive load and the team couldn’t afford to have him rack up fouls.

He looks awkward when he does try and you hear things about “high hips” that may or may not prevent him from ever being a strong defender. But with better coaching and an NBA strength program, I don’t see any reason why he can’t develop into at least a solid defender. He’s also explosive enough that even if he is never a great on-ball defender he could still be an asset as a weak-side shot-blocker.

Offensively, he would be a dream fit next to John Wall and Bradley Beal. He’s an elite finisher and would be scary in transition next to Wall. He would also give the team a different element as a vertical spacer and lob threat. Thomas Bryant is actually a strong rim-runner but he isn’t going to out-jump many people to catch lobs from Wall.

NCAA Basketball: Duquesne at Dayton
Toppin showing off his athleticism with a dunk against Duquesne
David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Toppin shot 39-percent from three and seems like he will be proficient enough from the NBA line that defenses will have to respect him. He has a bit of an unorthodox release and pushes the ball a bit but I think it would only require minor tweaks to shore up. Like Collins, Toppin has elite offensive tools for a modern power forward.

One of the other “knocks” against Toppin is his age. The thought is that at 22, he may not have much more room to grow compared against a 19-year old freshman. But Toppin is slightly different in that he has been a late bloomer throughout his journey to this point. Toppin was a no-star recruit coming out of high school and he’s almost unrecognizably better than when he was in prep school.

In today’s NBA, how many good players sign multiple contracts with the teams that originally drafted them? Might as well have a player that’s ready to contribute now while Wall and Beal are (hopefully) still a viable tandem, rather than someone who could develop just in time to sign his second contract elsewhere. With the two large contracts, this team needs a few legitimate contributors on cheap contracts.

Tommy Sheppard recently said, “We need to get more bouncy and we need to add defense.” Toppin certainly addresses the former more than the latter so maybe the second-round pick should be more defensive-oriented if you go this route. The fit here isn’t perfect but he might just be too dynamic for Sheppard to pass up.