Editor's note: As the Warriors prepare for the 2020 NBA draft, during which they will have a lottery pick for the first time since 2012, NBC Sports Bay Area will present a twice-weekly series spotlighting two players expected to be evaluated. This is the first of a 12-part series over the next six weeks.
The Warriors have narrowed their focus to “eight or 10” prospects to select with their first-round pick. From a collection of names familiar and new, at least one which upon first hearing might require repeating: Obi Toppin.
No player in college basketball achieved a sharper upward trajectory than Toppin during the eight-month period from last August, when he impressed at the Nike Skills Academy, to March, when the NCAA canceled the men's and women's tournament due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Toppin during that span made the bounce from a projected second-round pick in 2020 to the only player unanimously voted to the Associated Press All-America first team and practically a lock to be among the first five players selected in the NBA draft.
The power forward’s presence and production allowed Dayton to spend its season stunning the basketball world. The Flyers were 29-2 (18-0 in the Atlantic-10 Conference), ranked No. 3 in the last AP Top 25 poll and in line for a No.1 seed in the tournament.
Long and sinewy, Toppin spent this season astonishing observers with his shooting ability and filthy array of dunks (he averaged NCAA-high 3.5 per game). He showed good touch around the basket but particularly was effective in transition. His passing is sound, his rebounding solid but unexceptional. His defense, um, needs work. Teams evaluating Toppin will examine this closely to determine whether he’s unable or unwilling.
Toppin’s father, Obadiah, is a New York playground star with enough cred to be in a sports-drink commercial with Dwyane Wade, Vince Carter and Ben Wallace. The son clearly is a late bloomer, standing 6-foot-2 as a junior, 6-foot-5 as a senior and rising to 6-foot-9 over the past four years. Toppin in high school played only one season at the varsity level.
If there is a caution light it is the variance between Toppin’s effort level on offense and defense. On offense, his motor is evident. On defense, it’s prone to stalling.
After averaging 14.4 points and 5.6 rebounds as a redshirt freshman in 2018-19 (he sat out 2017-18 as an academic redshirt), Toppin declared for the 2019 NBA Draft. He worked out for at least five NBA teams before deciding last May to return to Dayton.
Toppin made a wise decision in returning to college for another season. NBA scouts like him much more than they did a year ago, as his performance spoke loudly in his favor.
A team seeking a stretch four -- and small-ball center -- who also is capable of finishing in the paint will take a long look in the direction of the guy with the unusual name who exudes joy.
Obi Toppin profile
Class: Redshirt sophomore
Birthdate: March 4, 1998 (22 years old)
Hometown: Brooklyn, New York
2019-20 season averages: 20.0 points (63.3 percent FG, 39 percent 3-point, 70.2 percent FT), 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks.
What they’re saying: “He does some things at star level, some things just average. I’ve heard the Amare Stoudemire comps. I’m not going there. Not yet. He has come a long [way]. If he continues to develop as he has, he could start for any team and make an impact.” -- Eastern Conference scout