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Knicks send Obi Toppin to Pacers for two 2nd-round picks

The former 2020 no. 8 overall pick leaves New York after three frustrating seasons

2022 NBA All-Star - State Farm All-Star Saturday Night Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

After a slow start to the free agency for Knicks fans out there eager to hear about the freshest player setting camp in Manhattan, New York finally completed the first move of the summer after they could never come close to making things work with Brooklyn native Obadiah Richard Toppin Jr.

The Knicks, as it’d been rumored for a few hours before and after the official start of the summer festivities on Friday at 6 p.m., decided to part ways with their former 2020 draft no. 8 overall pick Obi Toppin in a salary-dump trade that sent the forward packing to Indiana in exchange for two future second-round picks, ESPN first reported.

Adrian Wojnarowski broke the news on Saturday after a certain Anil Gogna had first made us all aware of the trade on Friday. Turns out Toppin could have already been traded 24 hours before every single breathing soul got the news about it. Sheesh.

Truth be told, the writing was solidly on the wall. Marc Stein knew about it. Ian Begley knew about it. Hell, we all knew it had to eventually happen, didn’t we? Perhaps we were trying to live in perpetual denial and hoping for an extraordinarily rare miracle, but ultimately it was all to no avail.

The Knicks failed to develop Toppin into what top-10 draft ticks tend to turn into and ended up flipping him for a couple of meaningless draft picks that will most probably yield nothing of substance. At least the front office created a $6.8 million trade exception (yikes...)

This is, obviously, a financial and business decision by the letter of the law. Toppin could have inked a new contract with the Knicks this summer, but considering he’d never played more than 1,230 minutes in a single season or topped 17.1 MPG, it made little sense for New York to keep kicking this can down the proverbial road.

Toppin is young. Toppin is excellent. Toppin might not reach the upper echelon of basketball in the Association, but even the tiniest of bump-ups in playing time will do wonders for him. Expect that to happen in Indy, when Topping might actually become a first-day starter for the Pacers once the ball gets rolling come October.

After two seasons in which he played 62 and 70 games, Toppin wrapped up his Knicks tenure with a 72-game campaign last year in which he averaged 7.4 PPG, 2.8 RPG, 1.0 APG in 15.7 MPG while posting up 44.6/34.4/59.3 shooting splits.

He finally was allowed to shoot more than 2.3 3PA per game reaching 3.7 such shots last year and hitting them at a career-best clip after struggling from beyond the arc in his rookie and sophomore seasons. That said, expanding his range killed Toppin’s efficiency as a whole as his field-goal percentage dropped from 53.1% a year before to this season’s 44.6%.

With Julius Randle not going anywhere (literally and figuratively), Toppin was never given a proper chance to showcase his talents through a big enough span of games, let alone playing stints in individual games. Even playing for Thibs, Toppin leaves New York having logged 30+ minutes in just 10 of the 201 regular-season games he got to play for the Knicks.

Trading Toppin isn’t necessarily bad, mind you. Is it sad? A lot. Is it frustrating? Even more. Is it the right thing to do? Considering what we know, you bet it is.

Toppin getting moved opened enough room for the Knicks to pursue their main free-agent target: former Golden State Warriors guard and NBA Champ with the Milwaukee Bucks Donte DiVincenzo, who has signed a four-year pact valued at $50 million.

The Knicks will need to keep working on crafting a proper roster after these two moves heavily loaded it with guards but left the forward position ripped to the bone.

As our own Lee put it in Obi’s season review, “The worst part about Toppin’s time in New York isn’t that we never got to know him. It’s that he was never even given a chance to properly introduce himself.”

I’ll be back in one or seven days. Meanwhile, find me crying solo in my bed.