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2020 Hornets prospect scouting report: Obi Toppin

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Could the best player in college basketball last season make an impact for the Hornets?

NCAA Basketball: Davidson at Dayton David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Obi Toppin was voted the AP Player of the Year for the 2019-20 season after a breakout campaign for the overachieving Dayton Flyers. His monster season catapulted him from draft afterthought to likely lottery pick, but does he fit with the rest of the Charlotte Hornets roster?

Measurements

Height: 6’9”
Wingspan: 6’11”
Weight: 220 pounds

Strengths: Offensive versatility, vertical athleticism

Obi Toppin’s NBA skills start and end on the offensive end of the floor. He finished the season averaging exactly 20 points per game, shooting 63.3% from the field and 39.0% from three. He’s a monstrous finisher in pick and roll and dump off situation. He’s a major lob threat and provides vertical spacing in the half court. He’s a threat to knock down 3-pointers out of the pick and pop, and he can bully outmatched defenders on the block. He’s also adept at finding open players, particularly from a standstill out of the post. He plays good team basketball. He’s not a lead ball handler by any means, but he will keep the offense flowing.

Toppin’s vertical athleticism pops. He throws down huge dunks in the half court and can put on a show in transition. That athleticism provides him with some potential as a help defender on the defensive end of the floor, though he hasn’t realized that potential yet.

Question marks: Can his offense translate to the NBA? Who does he guard?

For as effective an offensive player as Toppin was at the college level, there are serious questions about how it’ll translate to the NBA. Toppin got a lot of offense spoon-fed to him out of pick and rolls and dump offs where he was left with uncontested dunks. His post up moves are rudimentary and likely won’t work against NBA defenders with size. He shot 39% from three, but his release is low, slow, and inconsistent. He won’t be afforded the time and space he was in college.

Toppin’s defense is his biggest red flag. He has a high center of gravity, which combined with his sloppy footwork, makes him a sieve when guarding on the perimeter. Many modern NBA fours have the ball handling ability to attack from the perimeter, so it’s hard to see Toppin successfully guard that position.

It doesn’t look much better for him at the five. He gets bullied by stronger bigs and doesn’t put much effort into cleaning up the defensive glass. He has potential as a rim protector given his leaping ability, but teams can counter that by putting him in pick and rolls. He’s too slow to contain guards and can be easily exploited when asked to guard in space.

Overview

Toppin was a terrific college player and has highlight reels full of wow moments, but I question how well all that will translate to the NBA. His outside shot looks shaky, and if it doesn’t work in the NBA, he’d have to function as a more traditional five on offense. Defensively, he can’t guard anybody, so it’d be hard to find a big to pair him with. From the Hornets point of view, Toppin is positionally redundant with PJ Washington, and he isn’t so demonstrably better than other prospects that it’d make sense to take him over someone who fits a position of need.