Another NBA draft has come and gone, with the New York Knicks having yet another lottery pick. But something happened this year that we haven’t seen in many years…The Knicks drafted well.
Besides landing Mitchell Robinson and RJ Barrett in the last two drafts, the Knicks are known for fumbling the bag with their draft picks the last several seasons.
Not this year.
The Knicks drafted Obi Toppin, the high-flying hometown hero from Dayton University with the eighth overall pick. Toppin’s a player many experts had going in the top five. They later traded up for Kentucky guard Immanuel Quickley with the 23rd pick and signed Seton Hall guard Myles Powell as an undrafted free agent.
Let’s take a look at the three rookies headed to The World’s Most Famous Arena.
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The Knicks have been accumulating young assets and draft capital for the last three seasons, but nothing seems to be working. Besides Barrett and Robinson, there’s no clear-cut future star talent on this team. Heading into the 2020 NBA draft, the Knicks needed to hit a home run with their eighth overall pick, and that’s exactly what they did with Obi Toppin.
Toppin’s story is a great one. After playing one year of varsity basketball at Ossining High School, Toppin received zero Division-1 offers. He attended Mt. Zion Prep to continue his development and later received an offer from Dayton University. It was a long, uncertain road, but he made it.
From there, the rest is history.
Toppin stormed out of the gate, scoring 1,096 points in just two seasons. He played 64 games for Dayton, starting all 31 in his second season.
As a starter, Toppin averaged the following on a per-game basis:
- 20 points
- 7.5 rebounds
- 2 assists
- 1 block
- 1 steal
While the 6’9” forward is known for his high-flying dunks (he holds the Dayton record with 190), he also shot 63% from the field and 39% from the three-point line, a decent line given his play style.
Toppin hit his free throws at a 70% clip, a good but not solid number entering the NBA. That will need slight improvement as his style of play will lead to a lot of minutes in the paint, driving to the basket and drawing fouls.
Regardless, Toppin has box-office potential.
In his last season at Dayton, Toppin cleaned house with awards and honors at the end of the season. Toppin won the following before declaring for the NBA draft:
- A-10 Player of the Year
- AP Player of the Year
- Karl Malone Award
- Consensus All-America First Team
- Naismith Award
- Wooden Award
The best part about Toppin is his nonstop drive and how he always plays with a chip on his shoulder. Nobody thought he’d be here, yet here he is.
It’s officially TOP SZN for the Knicks.
After passing on top guards to select Toppin, a point guard was an absolute need with the Knicks’ next pick. Team President Leon Rose finessed some in-draft trades, trading up to the 23rd pick, in which they acquired the rights to Quickley from the Oklahoma City Thunder. Rose also acquired the rights to overseas player Ante Tomic and a future second-round pick.
With off-ball talents Barrett, Robinson, Randle, and now Toppin, the Knicks needed a scoring point guard who could also facilitate the basketball to his teammates. Quickley’s that guy.
The 6’3 guard played 67 games in his two seasons at Kentucky, starting 20 of 30 in his final season. In that season, he averaged 16 points, four rebounds, and two assists per game.
While that assist number may not appeal to you, he shot 43% from three and 92% from the free-throw line. That’s huge.
With those off-ball talents clogging the paint, having a guy who can let it rain from downtown and also hit his free throws will be a key asset this Knicks squad hasn’t had in many years.
Many great point guards have come out of Coach Cal’s Kentucky program, highlighted by John Wall and Rajon Rondo. Quickley, 2019-2020 SEC Player of the Year, brings a spark at the guard position the Knicks desperately need, and he’ll have every opportunity to be that guy.
In all honesty, this signing was unbelievable.
A guy like Powell wasn’t expected to go undrafted. Like signing Arizona Wildcat Alonzo Trier after the draft two years ago, perhaps the Knicks found another diamond in the rough who can provide an immediate spark.
Powell brings something the rest of this Knicks draft class doesn’t have: experience.
While it’s not at the NBA level, Powell played 129 games over four years at Seton Hall, starting 97 of them. Most of the Knicks’ young core only played one or two seasons in college, entering the NBA before they even turned 21. Powell is already 23.
Powell, 6’2, averaged 22 points, four rebounds, three assists, and 1.5 steals per game over his last two seasons at Seton Hall. He shot 42% from the field and 35% from three. 35% isn’t a great number, but Powell likes to shoot, launching about eight threes per game. He makes up for it by hitting 81% of his free throws.
The surprising part about Powell going undrafted is, like Toppin, he racked up several honors before leaving for the NBA.
Powell accomplished the following his final season at Seton Hall:
- All Big-East First Team
- Consensus All-America First Team
- Big East Player of the Year
- The Jerry West Award
- Finalist for the Wooden Award
Powell was a finalist for the Wooden Award, which Toppin won. The Wooden Award is given to the most outstanding college basketball players in the country, yet Powell still went undrafted. The Knicks may have gotten an absolute steal here with Powell.
At the end of the day, this is the New York Knicks we’re talking about. They always screw it up somehow. But something feels different this year following the draft.
They seem to be heading in a positive direction for once.
President Leon Rose and head coach Tom Thibodeau have a mutual idea of what they want this team to look like. They’re not making unnecessary trades or giving low-ranked free agent’s large contracts, and they finally have a core they can build around. Barrett, Robinson, and Toppin are going to light The Garden up and hopefully become a homegrown “big three” in the future.
Bottom line, the Knicks hit a home run with Toppin, and they drafted good role players in Quickley and Powell. They all can score, hit their free throws, and commit few turnovers.
You may not see it on day one, but the Knicks are building something. Fans should be excited about where the team’s headed.
Lifelong sports fan fulfilling a childhood dream. I’ll talk sports all day. Passion and hot takes are my thing… there’s always a story. Yankees. NY Giants. Knicks. Texas Longhorns. Yes… being a Knicks fan is rough, but my time will come (hopefully). Senior at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut.