The Trail Blazers’ 2019-20 season is firmly in the rearview mirror and 2020 NBA Draft is now on the horizon. As of now, the draft is scheduled for November 18. Unlike last year, the Blazers enter the process with two picks at their disposal. Portland currently owns the No. 16 pick in the first round and the No. 46 pick in the second round.
Today’s profile looks at Dayton forward Obi Toppin. The reigning National Player of the Year is an undeniable offensive talent, and would be a tantalizing option for Portland should he slip out of the lottery.
- Height: 6’9”
- Weight: 220
- Wingspan: 7’2”
- Shoots: Right
- Position: PF
- Age: 22
- Projected draft range: 5-10
- PTS: 20 | Per 40: 25.3
- REB: 7.5 | Per 40: 9.5
- AST: 2.2 | Per 40: 2.7
- BLK: 1.2 | Per 40: 1.5
- FG%: 63.3
- 3P%: 39.0
- FT%: 70.2
The first thing that jumps off the screen from Toppin is his explosive athleticism. He put together a career’s worth of highlight reel dunks in his breakout sophomore season for the Dayton Flyers. However, there’s much more to his game than his finishing ability at the rim. Obi can handle the ball and sees the floor well—making him an adept passer and lethal in transition.
In addition to a solid low-post game and rim attacking ability, Toppin has proven that he can knock down the outside shot as well. After averaging less than one three-point attempt per game as a redshirt freshman in 2018-19, he raised that rate to 2.6 attempts this season. While that’s still not a huge sample size, the significant year-to-year improvement shows that it’s an area of his game that he has clearly worked on, and could still have room to grow at the next level.
The most glaring deficiency in Obi’s game is his defense. He has a tendency to become flat-footed at that end of the floor, and a lack of lateral movement further exasperates that issue on the perimeter. He also struggles with positioning down low—most notably on display in the Maui Invitational against Kansas center Udoka Azubuike. While Azubuike (7’0”, 270) had a significant size advantage, Toppin had the same issue in conference play guarding players much smaller.
Toppin is a late bloomer. He didn’t play on the varsity team until his senior year at Ossining (NY) High, after growing from 6’2” to 6’5” after his junior season. He didn’t receive a single Division-1 offer until a year of prep school. Even then, he was academically ineligible his first year at Dayton, giving him just two seasons of college experience despite entering the draft at 22 years old. While it makes for a great study in perseverance, it could cause concern for GMs.
Toppin led the Flyers to their best season in school history—going 29-2 overall and a perfect 18-0 in the Atlantic 10—in which they had a legitimate shot at the national championship. Unfortunately, Dayton was denied a chance to prove themselves in the NCAA Tournament due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That didn’t stop their star from being named the consensus National Player of the Year.
While he missed out on March Madness, Toppin played in a number of high-profile games during the regular season that showcased his ability to perform against top-tier competition. He dropped 18 points, nine rebounds and three blocks against Kansas in the championship game of the Maui Invitational—an overtime loss for the Flyers. Obi also went for 25 and 24 points in earlier rounds of that tournament, against Georgia and Virginia Tech, respectively. He notably struggled against Tyler Bey and Colorado, but absolutely dominated the Atlantic 10—a better conference than many realize.
Given his well-rounded offensive game and athletic ability, it’s no surprise that Toppin is considered one of the top prospects for this year’s draft. Rebuilding teams could look past his defensive deficiencies, but his age and the perception that he may have reached his ceiling could cause him to slide. It’s hard to imagine him falling out of the lottery, but he could make an immediate impact for just about any team in the league, contender or not.
Toppin would appear to fit quite well with the Blazers, at least on the offensive end of the floor. His lob potential on the pick and roll likely has Damian Lillard frothing at the mouth, and he’s also capable of knocking down the catch-and-shoot three—which would help open the floor for Lillard and CJ McCollum.
Of course, should he fall to Portland, the selection wouldn’t exactly be a no-brainer. It’s no secret that the Blazers badly need help defensively, and Obi wouldn’t move the needle in that department. With several defensive-minded wings likely available in the Blazers’ range, defensive needs might outweigh added offensive firepower in the team’s decision.