When the Indiana Pacers acquired Obi Toppin from the New York Knicks in the summer, the expectation was that he would provide Tyrese Haliburton with a lethal lob threat. The 25-year-old forward from Dayton has provided that, and then some.
Obi Toppin Has Surpassed All Expectations
Obi Toppin’s Offensive Efficiency
Once the #8 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft, Toppin has enjoyed a significantly larger role in Indiana than the one he had in Tom Thibodeau’s Knicks system last season. He is registering career highs across multiple statistics, including points, minutes played, and assists.
The most mesmerizing of these, however, has been his offensive efficiency. Among players who average at least eight field goal attempts per game, Toppin ranks second in true shooting percentage. That trails the efficiency stalwart that is Cleveland’s Jarrett Allen.
Unlike Allen however, Toppin consistently attempts three-pointers and has hit them at a steady 36.9% clip this season, a mark that is significantly better than his 31.9% rate during his time in New York. Head coach Rick Carlisle sought out that weakness in Toppin’s game and has been a tremendous help in the Dayton star’s improvement.
“Rick’s been helping me with keeping my balance…I’ve been watching the film and seeing I’m leaning left a little bit, leaning right instead of being square. When I’m square, most of my shots are going in,” Toppin said about his increased three-point success.
His finishing ability at the rim is what makes him a perfect fit for Indiana’s run-and-gun offense. The Pacers have been able to blend a barrage of three-point attacks with a steady dose of paint scoring. His 1.63 points per possession at the rim rank second in the entire league, only behind the Raptors’ Jakob Poeltl.
Toppin has undoubtedly been a beneficiary of Haliburton’s stellar play, as 84 of his 248 points this season have been assisted by the Pacers’ superstar point guard. His scoring output has also nearly doubled from last season, thanks to his recent form. Toppin has surpassed the 15-point threshold in six of his last nine games.
Obi Toppin’s Defense
Although the Pacers have the league’s top-rated offense, their defense leaves much to be desired. Ranking 28th in defensive efficiency, the Pacers’ proclivity towards letting their opponents score at will is the main reason their record is solely 11-8. One of the players who has shown flashes of helping shore up their defensive woes is Obi Toppin.
Head coach Rick Carlisle decided to assign Toppin as the primary defender to Miami’s All-Star forward Jimmy Butler when the two teams faced off on Saturday. Butler finished with 33 points but was held to 4-11 shooting when being guarded by Toppin. Toppin himself provided 22 points on 7-8 shooting as the Pacers prevailed in a 144-129 victory over the Heat. Carlisle will likely call on Toppin to act as the team’s primary wing-stopper on nights when Bruce Brown’s lack of size is made evident by taller offensive threats.
The Future Is Bright
It is still early days in this era of Pacers basketball, yet the vision is clear. Tyrese Haliburton is the franchise player. Everybody knows that. Championship teams need role players that mesh well with their stars. The Pacers seem to have found just that in Toppin. With the Pacers on the precipice of reaching the NBA In-Season Tournament Final, it’s safe to say that Obi Toppin may have found a home in Indiana.