Obi Toppin Scouting Report: 2020 NBA Draft Prospect

2020 NBA Draft Prospect: Obi Toppin

D.O.B: March 4, 1998
Height: 6 foot 9
Weight: 220 lbs
Wingspan: 7 foot 4
Positional Role: Mobile Big
Current Team: Dayton Flyers

Offensive Synopsis

Toppin’s offensive game is comprised of mostly dunks, spot-up jump shots, and baby hooks. A lot of his scoring opportunities are created from pick and roll situations in the half-court or transition baskets where he can get right to the rim.

Athleticism

Toppin is an explosive athlete that finishes above the rim with force. At 6 foot 9, he was an undersized Center at Dayton but made up for his lack of size with his athleticism. Not only is Toppin more vertical than traditional bigs, but Toppin’s also much quicker and agile. When he faces up to the basket, his first step is exceptionally quick. He will have no problem blowing by defenders, notably slower 5’s.

Transition

Where Toppin excels most is in transition. Toppin fits the mold of a prototypical big man in the small-ball era. Instead of big, strong, lumbering Centers, Toppin is slim, fast, and mobile. He gets up and down the floor faster than most guards and is always looking to run. Toppin attempts just under 20% of his shots in transition, where he converts 75% of his attempts. He yields 1.438 points per possession (PPP) in transition, which is in the 95th percentile of NCAA Division 1 athletes. That’s remarkable.

The numbers are impressive, but watching Toppin on film shows you why his success in transition will inevitably translate to the NBA. Toppin does a great job ‘rim-running’ when he does not secure the rebound. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means as soon as his team secures the rebound, Toppin is out in transition, running straight to the rim, looking for a quick feed that leads to a dunk. He does this on about 25% of his transition attempts and shoots over 80% (1.6 PPP) when he gets the ball.

Toppin is even skilled enough to lead the break. He is the primary ball-handler in transition 22.5% of the time and averages 1.2 PPP, which is in the 91st percentile of efficiency. He does have a high turnover percentage as the decision-maker on the break (33.3%), but on average, he still converts at a very high clip.

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Pick and Roll

Obi is an excellent pick and roll big. If he genuinely wants to find success in the NBA, I believe that this is where Toppin will find it. Being a sharp pick and roll player will immediately thrust Toppin into an NBA rotation and help ease his transition into the NBA.

Toppin is almost always the screener/roller in the pick and roll; so, rarely will he be in the position of the decision-maker role. He sets most of his screens above the three-point line, which will translate very well in a spread offense that operates along with the three-point arc-like Atlanta, Portland or Golden State.

When Toppin rolls to the basket off of high screen & rolls, he averages 1.216 PPP on 60.6% of his shot attempts. That lands him in about the 75th percentile in screen & roll efficiency. Watching his film tells me that this number is going to drop significantly in his first few years in the NBA. Toppin is playing in the A10 conference, so the competition isn’t top quality. Toppin can physically dominate teams like Fordham or St.Louis out of the pick and roll. If he’s rolling to the basket looking to dunk the ball in the NBA, there is going to be a shot-blocker there waiting for him at the rim. Still, his efficiency in the pick and roll is impressive.

Toppin’s awareness in the pick and roll is very advanced for his age. While setting a screen, Toppin reads the position of the defense to determine what the best course of action is. Sometimes the defense will collapse the ball handler, and Toppin will dive to the basket. When the defenses switches, Toppin will roll right to the block to post up the smaller defender. When the defense cheats under the screen, Toppin pops out and knocks down the jumper. He dictates his action based on what the defense gives him, making him a threat in nearly every pick and roll situation.

Shooting

Toppin also can knock down the three at an efficient clip. Last year, Toppin shot 39% from three, which is solid for a stretch 5. About a quarter of Toppin’s total shot attempts are jump shots, the majority of which are catch and shoot opportunities in the half-court. He averages 1.127 PPP for every catch and shoot opportunity, which is above average and good for his position.

If Toppin wants to be able to score consistently at the NBA level, there is no doubt that he will need to be able to shoot the ball out of pick and pop situations. There are premier rim protectors in the NBA who won’t allow him to roll and score at the rim, so perfecting an outside jump shot is something he should be looking to accomplish this offseason. On film, Toppin’s footwork is sound when getting ready to shoot after a ball screen. He does an excellent job setting his feet and giving a target.

His floor awareness is advanced in the pick and pop as well. He does a good job getting to open spaces on the floor to force the defense to make a decision; either commit to stopping the downhill attack of the ball handler, or commit to taking away Toppin’s open jump shot. Since he primarily operates high picks and rolls along the perimeter, Toppin will likely have to extend his range out to the NBA three to stretch defenses out even further. The mid-range shot is an asset, but the three-point shot is far more impactful from a stretch 5.

Half of Toppin’s total pick and roll plays resulted in a pick and pop, but only 32.3% of those possessions convert into scores. That is in the 40th percentile of all NCAA players. If he wants to make an impact in the NBA, he has to convert his pick and pop attempts at a much higher rate.

Defensive Synopsis

Length and Frame

One remarkable physical feature about Toppin is his 7 foot 4 wingspan. Toppin’s length makes up for his lack of size for the position he plays. As a result, Toppin has turned into an adequate rim protector and disruptive force on the defensive end.

Toppin is quite slender for a big man, so he’ll need to add some muscle if he wants to be able to contest with the big men in the NBA. He gets outmuscled frequently on the low block due to his lack of lower body strength. He doesn’t have great balance either, so he’ll be knocked out of position, which allows bigger, stronger, players to get clean looks at the basket. His explosiveness helps him recover at times, but he can’t always rely on his athleticism at the NBA level.

Pick and Roll Defense

Toppin’s length and quickness should allow him to defend smaller quicker players adequately in the pick and roll. However, that is not the case. Pick and roll defense is something that Toppin has struggled with throughout his career. Toppin is among the worst defenders in the NCAA in the pick and roll. Toppin ranked in the 1% percentile when it came to guarding the pick and roll. His defensive awareness is weak, and he is often too slow to defend guards on the perimeter. Teams will target Toppin in the pick and roll to exploit this weakness.

Toppin not only struggles with the pick and roll but the pick and pop as well. He is in the 0% percentile when it comes to defending the pick and pop. His opponents score 75% of their attempts and yield a PPP of 1.846 (extremely high). If Toppin does not improve his pick and roll defense, NBA teams will exploit this weakness, and he’ll be a major liability on the defensive end.

Rim Protection

At the college level, Toppin is a good rim protector and averages just over one block per game. His weak side instincts are pretty good, but he often gets away with relying on his athleticism to make a play. If he continues to rely on his athletic ability, it will lead to poor positioning and shot-blocking angles. Crafty NBA guards will be able to finish at the rim or up and over Toppin unless his defensive positioning improves. If Toppin is to play a stretch five in the NBA, coaches will want him to be able to protect the rim, so this is an essential adjustment for him.

Post Defense

For the most part, Toppin is an excellent defender on the low block. When opposing big men post Toppin up, they only convert on 33% of their attempts, which ranks Toppin in the 86th percentile defending the post. The result of posting up Toppin is about 0.652 PPP, very low.

There are times, however, where Toppin also struggles on the low-block, usually against more traditional big men. Toppin is long and athletic, but he’s also thin and easy to move around. When he matched up against Udoka Azubuike, the traditional Center from Kansas, he got dominated. Azubuike went for 29, which led to a Kansas title win in the Maui classic final. The good news for Toppin is that the traditional big man is a dying breed. The bad news is that they still exist now and will make life difficult for Toppin on the defensive end.

Stats

PPGRPGAPGSPGBPGFG%FT%3P%
20.07.52.21.01.263.3%70.2%39.0%

Toppin’s stats were excellent last year at Dayton. He was efficient from the field, he shot almost 40% from three and averaged over one block and one steal per game. The only problem with these stats is that we do not know if these numbers are inflated because he plays in a weaker conference.

In the last decade, there have been 27 players drafted from the A10. None of those players have gone in the top 20. The A10 conference hasn’t been particularly strong as of late in terms of producing NBA prospects, so how valid are all of Toppin’s stats? It’s hard to say. At the end of the day, you can only play who is in front of you, and Toppin dominated most teams that he faced. That has to count for something.

Player Comparison

When watching Obi Toppin, a couple of players come to mind immediately: Amare Stoudemire and Kenyon Martin. Toppin has qualities of both players. Stoudemire was exceptional in the pick and roll/pick and pop but needed a playmaker who was able to get him open. Toppin also excels in the pick and roll but is reliant on a playmaker to get open looks. Kenyon Martin was a force in transition and, like Toppin, will dunk the ball every chance he gets.

Like Stoudemire, Toppin struggles on the defensive side of the ball. Similar to Kenyon Martin, he is an athletic four or five who will play the part of an undersized rim protector.

Ultimately, I see both of these guys when I watch Toppin, and if he turns out to be as good as either of these guys, any team would be happy to have him on their roster.

Best Team Fits

Toppin is one of the most highly scouted bigs in this class with tremendous upside. Unfortunately, we never got to see Toppin face off against the best competition in the tournament, which may cause teams to be hesitant to take Toppin. He’s put up solid numbers, but against the lackluster competition. As a result, I can see Toppin being selected as high as three and as low as ten.

Golden State Warriors

golden state warriorsI think that Toppin fits in perfectly with the Golden State Warriors run and gun offense. He’ll be subjected to playing the stretch five, but his ability to play in the pick and roll and run the floor makes him a constant threat in a perimeter-centric, fast-paced offense. If the draft did not have a lottery, Golden State would have the first pick. Although he fits beautifully with the Warriors, I do not think Obi Toppin is the most talented player in this draft, and I would not select him over Anthony Edwards, James Wiseman, or Lamelo Ball if I were Golden State. Great is always better than good, regardless of team fit.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Minnesota TimberwolvesAs it stands right now, the Timberwolves would have the third overall pick and Obi Toppin may be the best fit for them. The Timberwolves are a young, long, athletic team in need of a power forward that can get up and down the floor. Toppin, Okogie, Culver, and Beasley all run the floor very well. Together, they would make a fast team that can score in a hurry. Since Karl Anthony-Towns is the cemented centerpiece on that team, Toppin can settle into a more complementary role and transition into the NBA more smoothly.

He wouldn’t have to play the stretch five since Towns would be playing center, and he wouldn’t be asked to guard any Centers either. With Towns playing the five, Toppin will be able to play his most natural position at the stretch-four. Furthermore, with the addition of D’Angelo Russell, the Timberwolves finally have a playmaker on offense. Toppin would most likely be involved in plenty of pick and roll and pick and pop scenarios where he’ll see plenty of scoring opportunities.

The Timberwolves need a power forward, and Toppin is one of the best in this class. I would be surprised if Minnesota passed on him at three.

Phoenix Suns

phoenix sunsIf Toppin is not selected at pick 3, there aren’t any teams that need an athletic power forward until pick 10, the Phoenix Suns. The Suns only power forward under contract going into next year is Cheick Diallo, so there is definitely a hole in their roster at the four. Ayton is a traditional big who will take on the role of a primary rebounder, shot blocker, and inside scorer. This opens up opportunities for Toppin to play his natural position and ease into the NBA scene more smoothly. With Ricky Rubio at point guard, Toppin’s rim-running will get him plenty of easy looks in transition. His ability to play in the pick and roll with Rubio will also provide Toppin with ample scoring opportunities, either as a roller or as a shooter.

On the offensive end, Toppin will not be called upon as a top scoring option, which I think will be formidable for his development. Devin Booker, DeAndre Ayton, and Kelly Oubre can handle the majority of the scoring, and Toppin can work on his ability to play in the pick and roll, his perimeter defense, his post defense, and his three-point shooting. Toppin would be an immediate starter in Phoenix and add to an already solid young core.

I’m sure Phoenix would like an Amare Stoudemire 2.0.

Overall

Toppin is an intriguing prospect with a lot of upside. He has all the physical tools to succeed in the modern NBA; length, speed, and outside shooting. Obi shows high court awareness and good instincts out of the pick and roll. He has several promising aspects of his game, but it would be foolish to say that he doesn’t have holes in his game.

Toppin needs to improve on the defensive side of the ball at the NBA level, or teams will exploit him in the half-court. His pick and roll defense was among the worst in Division 1 basketball, and he struggled to stop any traditional centers in the post.

I believe Toppin will end up being a nice complimentary piece who contributes on the offensive side of the ball. He’ll be a factor in the pick and roll game and thrive in transition, but his struggles on the defensive end may hinder him from ever reaching his true potential.

If teams are looking for dynamic offensive players who can create their own shot, Toppin isn’t that guy. However, if teams are looking for guys who can make an impact without having the ball in their hands, Toppin may be the prospect they are looking for.

AthleticismShootingReboundingSizeIQDefense
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I am a 25-year old independent basketball scout who has aspirations to one day work in the NBA. I am located in Toronto, Canada and grew up loving the Raptors. This sparked my interest in basketball and I haven't looked back since. Currently I am working as a Video and Analytics Co-ordinator for the Humber Hawks basketball team, while also scouting overseas for Ambassy International.

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