Knicks’ Obi Toppin looks ready for big minutes in second year

LAS VEGAS — Obi Toppin obtained a cellphone name Friday from Texas to basically say: “Keep up the good work. I’m going to need you.”

Knicks All-Star energy ahead Julius Randle, who led the NBA in minutes final season, rang Toppin to precise admiration for his play in the Las Vegas Summer League.

In 5 video games, Toppin has averaged 36.5 minutes and been a constant scoring machine — from in all places. The 6-foot-9 energy ahead has bulled his approach to the ring for buckets, used his athleticism for theatrical alley-oop dunks and appeared respectable taking pictures from 3-point vary (35.5 p.c).

“I used to be speaking to Julius [Friday],’’ Toppin advised The Post late Saturday night time after the Knicks beat the Cavaliers to maneuver to 3-2. “That’s my boy. That’s my brother. He advised me: ‘Good job, just keeping hooping.’ He stated it looks like I’m having enjoyable on the market. Just hold having fun with what I’m doing.’’

In Toppin’s rookie season, the Dayton dunker didn’t hoop sufficient.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau didn’t belief the Brooklyn native on protection and Toppin’s effectivity on offense wasn’t sufficient to maintain the facility ahead on the courtroom for lengthy stretches. Not when Randle was having his blazing season. Toppin averaged simply 11 minutes and 4.0 factors.

Obi Toppin has the fifth highest scoring average in summer league.
Obi Toppin has the fifth highest scoring common in summer season league.
Getty Images

Now, the Knicks 2020 lottery decide is spreading his wings, hotter than close by Death Valley. The Knicks have one comfort sport left Monday versus Atlanta nevertheless it’s up in the air on whether or not Toppin performs.

He’s confirmed sufficient, averaging 23.0 factors — fifth-highest in summer season league — and shot 45.9 p.c from the sphere. Though turnovers have been a problem, Toppin is averaging 8.2 rebounds.

“It feels nice placing up the numbers I’ve been placing up,’’ stated Toppin, who scored 21 factors versus Cleveland on Saturday. “Today wasn’t what I wished on the rebounding facet. I’m simply having enjoyable on the market, having enjoyable with all these guys. Being right here I’ve to be the chief and assist these guys get wins.’’

Finding extra minutes for the 23-year-old Toppin can be a boon as it will give Randle extra breathers. Randle led the NBA in complete minutes final season in enjoying 71 of 72 video games. Randle averaged 37.4 minutes per sport.

Julius Randle
Julius Randle
Getty Images

If Toppin can log 18 minutes, Randle’s haul could possibly be diminished to 33 minutes or so — in the event that they share the courtroom briefly. Randle appeared worn out by the playoffs.

According to 1 NBA scout, Toppin’s offensive sport not looks to be a fear, however he nonetheless should work on workforce protection and being a greater inside defender in order to earn extra minutes from Thibodeau.

“I really feel like I do know my function,’’ Toppin stated. “I attempted to concentrate on rebounding and protection principally. Just enhancing in that, offensively issues will come to me. I really feel like protection is a very powerful factor when enjoying for coach Thibs — and enjoying anyplace.

“You do hustle performs on protection, get a block, a steal. It’s selecting up the workforce and giving gamers vitality. If you get a cease on protection, you change it to offense. We have a whole lot of completely different weapons offensively. So once we get that cease, we’ll end on the alternative facet.’’

Thibodeau didn’t speak to the press at summer season league. He nonetheless hasn’t addressed the Knicks’ 4 2021 draft picks regardless of them excelling in Las Vegas. Knicks brass is delighted by the enhancements since June’s Draft Combine made by Quentin Grimes, Miles McBride and Jericho Sims. (Rokas Jokubaitis left the summer season workforce Saturday to hitch Barcelona and gained’t be on the Knicks roster.)

The additions of latest level guard Kemba Walker and swingman Evan Fournier will assist. If a few the rookies contribute and add depth, the Knicks might probably maintain their top-5 standing in the much-improved East.

“I really feel like subsequent year’s workforce goes to be nice,’’ Toppin stated. “We have a whole lot of completely different weapons, like we did final year. We added a pair extra guys. With coach Thibs, we’ll lock in defensively and every part goes to go our method. I really feel we’ll be No. 1 in protection once more and push offensively to be prime tier.’’

And if Toppin makes a big leap, all bets are off.

“Obi put a whole lot of time in in the summer season and it’s confirmed,’’ Knicks summer league coach Dice Yoshimoto. “He’s obtained to proceed to place time in and outcomes will care for itself. This was an opportunity to point out who he’s and construct the suitable habits.’’

After being drafted No. 8 final November, Toppin by no means obtained to ease into the NBA with the Las Vegas showcase. Perhaps occasions would’ve gone smoother his rookie year if he had that have right here.

“It didn’t happen,’’ Toppin said. “It would’ve been great to have a summer league last year.”

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