Charlotte Hornets: Obi Toppin is the Ideal Modern Day Forward

Most have deemed the 2020 NBA Draft, whenever it may take place, as one that is devoid of players with star potential. This Charlotte Hornets’ prospect article will cover why Dayton’s, Obi Toppin may be an exception.

Obi Toppin has been the feel-good story of the 2019-2020 college basketball season. He was the consensus National Player of the Year after leading the Dayton Flyers, a mid-major school, to a top-three finish in the polls. Toppin’s highlight machine style of play made him a staple of SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays, as well as a strong prospect for the Charlotte Hornets to review. However, he was far from the national spotlight before this season.

The Brooklyn, New York native, was ruled academically ineligible to play his freshman season. Yet, with little fanfare coming from his recruitment, nobody batted much of an eye at the time.

Toppin’s redshirt freshmen season in 2018-2019 showed reasons for Dayton fans to be excited. He posted 14.4 points and grabbed 5.6 boards per contest en route to receiving a rare combination of accolades; First Team All-Atlantic 10 and Atlantic 10 Rookie of the Year.

The Anthony Grant mentee truly broke onto the scene with an eye-popping showing at the 2019, Maui Invitational. The Hawaii based preseason tournament usually showcases the best college basketball has to offer, and Toppin led the Flyers to a second-place finish in the festivities.

Dayton quickly jumped out to its best start in school history. Before the season was abruptly cut short due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, Toppin’s squad was well on its way to a top-three seed in the NCAA tournament.

Breaking down the numerous national accolades Toppin received, his most notable single-game performance came against North Florida. In a blowout victory, the Mt. Zion Prep alum posted a career-high 31 points and a whopping, school record, ten dunks.

The Charlotte Hornets are currently slotted to pick towards the end of the lottery, well out of Toppin range. However, if onlookers have learned anything from these ‘weak’ drafts, it’s that some weirdness is bound to happen.

Take Anthony Bennett, for instance, who was projected to go outside the top five leading up Cleveland brazenly taking the forward with the first overall pick. Point being, Toppin falling to Charlotte’s range would not be ridiculous. Provided the ‘crap-shoot’ style of these weak drafts, Mitch Kupchak would be wise to take the Dayton star.

About Charlotte Hornets draft prospect Obi Toppin

Height: 6-9

Weight: 220

Wingspan: 7-2 (reported)

2019-2020 stats (per game): 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 63% field goal percentage

Strengths:

  • Ideal size and measurables
  • Uber athletic
  • Stretches the floor
  • Flexibility off picks
  • Elite finisher
  • Defensive potential

Weaknesses:

  • Slow on perimeter
  • Lacks perimeter shot creation

The most unique offensive trait Toppin possesses is the array of options he presents in screen setting situations. A 39% shooter in his final year in Ohio, defenses are going to be in a true ‘pick your poison’ situation when planning for Toppin.

Undoubtedly, help defenders will be glued to him when he sets a screen. Unlike how the opposition will loom in the paint when, for example, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist sets a screen, the potential for Toppin to pop in this situation must be respected.

The other option would be pressing up too much and allowing him to get behind the defense on a roll to the rim. Toppin has excellent length and hands that allow him to receive even the most erroneous of entry passes. He has mastered the art of keeping defenders away without pushing off and catching passes rolling downhill, a trait that the NBA’s most skilled rollers possess.

Additionally, any analysis on Toppin would be remiss to not mention his package of finishes. Once receiving a pass in the lane, one will be hard-pressed to find a more explosive finisher. Toppin has a plethora of highlights that make one say; he would have to be crazy to take off from there. Yet, every time such a play ends in a ferocious dunk.

A variety of reliable flip and hook shots, granted with a clear right-hand bias, cap off a nifty array of ways for Toppin to finish in the lane. A plus seven-foot wingspan and elite vertical should make the transition from Atlantic 10 to NBA competition fairly smooth.

Athletic prospects who play with this kind of intensity simply seem to figure it out. There were numerous mechanical questions about Russell Westbrook and Shawn Marion coming out of college. However, the criticisms did not seem to matter in the long run when they were out hustling and jumping over everyone in the gym.

While a top criticism of Toppin as a prospect is quickness, it is reasonable to assume that this will be easily remedied at the next level. With a committed NBA training staff behind him, perhaps agility will be a point of emphasis.

Nonetheless, one has to question how much Toppin will even need to rely on quickness with an astounding, 7-2 wingspan, and an elite vertical to fall back on. If the opposition gets by him on defense, his length and leaping ability will allow him to simply pin shots against the backboard from behind.

The more pressing issue with Toppin is his shot creation ability off the catch. To say the least, his dribbling mechanics are awkward. The forward simply looks not in control when attempting to perform even something as simple as a crossover. This is something that clearly needs to be improved at the next level. The NBA’s best offensive forwards can showcase at least some competency in the dribbling department. This is arguably Toppin’s biggest red flag.

Furthermore, due to this lack of ball control, off the dribble mid-range shots and longer floaters often misses badly. Luckily, Toppin’s elite hops allow him to find his way to a higher percentage look from a position that most would have to settle for a jump shot from. Enrolling in the Paul Pierce school of stretch forward shot creation would benefit Toppin in the long run.

Some may heavily question his potential fit in Charlotte. The Hornets have a glut of uber-athletic wings and tweeners. However, it is arguable that the coaching staff should not be married to one particular rotation.

When a staff that is entering its third season with little success so show for it, it will unavoidably get desperate and trot some weird lineups on the court. In the midst of a clear rebuilding situation, every player on the Hornets roster next season should receive a sizeable opportunity at some point. While Cody and Caleb Martin look good in short stints on a lottery team, will they even be rotational level players on a playoff team?

Toppin also has the advantage of being an older prospect at 22 years of age. He will be more NBA ready than Anthony Edwards, who he is three years elder of. While some may see this as a weakness, 22-years-old is far from being a finished product with most players’ prime coming at 26 or 27-years-old.

Next: Could Andre Drummond be the answer at center for the Charlotte Hornets?

Toppin has a very safe, Aaron Gordon-esque floor. On the upside, he could turn out to be a versatile threat on both ends of the floor for a team such as Charlotte, should he fall that far. Best case scenario; think old school, such as Shawn Kemp, when he was making highlights for the now-defunct, Seattle Supersonics. Toppin should be thought of as the best prospect in the 2020 NBA Draft because of this.

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