For parts of the past few days, it seemed like a forgone conclusion, or at least a very possible outcome, that Obi Toppin would be wearing another jersey. There were numerous reports that teams like the Pacers and the Jazz had expressed interest in the Knicks’ athletic big man and with the team seemingly interested in acquiring pieces to win now, there just didn’t seem like an avenue to get Toppin the larger role so many want to see him in. So it comes as a bit of surprise to not only see Toppin still a Knick past the trade deadline, but to hear that the asking price for him was “significant,” especially since he’s eligible for an extension this summer.
Sure the New York native is a first-round pick that has shown some promise throughout his young career, but the Knicks, at least over the last few weeks, looked like a team that didn’t value Toppin very much. Between the diminished role, and the trade rumors, many hypothesized that Leon Rose and co. didn’t look at him the same way they do Immanuel Quickley and Quentin Grimes.
It remains hard to decipher what exactly this means, but there are a few possibilities. The first of which is that maybe they just don’t want to part ways with him. Kind of like clinging on to a relationship that you know that is failing, New York may know that this partnership won’t last too much longer the way it currently is, but is fighting to maintain it, mainly because they don’t want to see it end. And that’s perfectly understandable. People, basketball front offices included, hate admitting mistakes as well as saying good-byes. Even if the front office knows that Toppin’s days as a Knick are numbered, they may just not have been ready yet and want to hold on to the third-year wing in case there is an injury in route to what they hope will be a deep playoff run.
Secondly, it could just be that there’s really nothing to read in to and that the front office just wants as big of a haul as they can get for a young and promising player. Thirdly, and this is where it gets interesting, maybe the Knicks actually do believe in Toppin and are keeping him for the future with plans of a potentially increased role. However unlikely it may seem right now, maybe they see him as playing a bigger role as the playoff nears or they think he can play alongside Julius Randle more? Or maybe, just maybe, they think that he’ll take a lot of the minutes whenever the Knicks front office pulls off that big deal we’ve been waiting on and more wing minutes open as a result of a guy like RJ Barrett leaving. That’s not to say that the Knicks are looking to part ways with Barrett, but between Thibodeau benching him and Barrett being included in some trade rumors, Barrett suddenly doesn’t seem as untouchable as he once was thought to be.
Again, this all speculation and there’s really no way to know. But since we didn’t really get much news besides a whole bunch of rumors and the Josh Hart deal, it’s kind of all we can do. Speculate on the what ifs and the whys. But for now, it seems like Toppin is here to stay in what’ll most likely remain a very underutilized and misused role.