NBA Draft 2020: Obi Toppin's offensive skills could intrigue Warriors

NBA Draft 2020: Obi Toppin's offensive skills could intrigue Warriors

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.

[RELATED: Report: NBA, players want to finish season no matter what]

Obi Toppin profile

Position: Forward

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.

Height: 6-foot-9

Weight: 225

Wingspan: 7-4

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

Warriors coaches holding virtual 'cooking challenge,' Steve Kerr says

Warriors coaches holding virtual 'cooking challenge,' Steve Kerr says

With all NBA travel on an indefinite suspension due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, NBA coaches have been spending a lot more time at home than they normally would during March and April.

Instead of spending time on the road scouting and preparing for the NBA playoffs, they've been forced to find other ways to fill their time.

With just about all restaurants being confined to takeout or delivery, families have been staying in and cooking more frequently. In that spirit, the Warriors coaching staff is trying to stay competitive.

"Believe it or not, we have a coaches' challenge tonight," Kerr said on 95.7 The Game Thursday. "All of the coaches, either last night, tonight or tomorrow are supposed to cook the same meal. The team chef has basically challenged us, and we are all supposed to report back to him with a photo and some kind of video of a family member commenting on the dish."

[RELATED: Lacob acknowledges Warriors could trade down in NBA draft]

Kerr said the dish was chicken parmesan, a classic family meal.

Given Kerr's various successes as an NBA player, coach, executive and broadcaster, it's hard to imagine that his cooking skills wouldn't at least be above average.

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Why Joe Lacob mentioned Harrison Barnes when praising Andrew Wiggins

Why Joe Lacob mentioned Harrison Barnes when praising Andrew Wiggins

Andrew Wiggins was impressive in his first 12 games in a Warriors uniform.

The 25-year-old averaged 19.4 points, 4.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.4 blocks, while shooting nearly 46 percent overall and just under 34 percent from 3-point range.

"Our coaching staff is very excited about Andrew and how he may fit here going forward," Warriors owner Joe Lacob told Tim Kawakami of The Athletic on Thursday. "Very hard -- it's so hard -- to find wings right now in the NBA with good positional size and athleticism.

"He's a walking 20 points. He's gonna go out there and he's gonna get you 20 points in any game. He's capable of doing a lot more than that. But that's pretty good."

And then Lacob mentioned a former Warriors player that had to sign elsewhere once Kevin Durant decided to come to Golden State.

"When Harrison Barnes was with us -- and I loved Harrison, different kind of player a little bit -- but we would sit there and say, 'If we can just get him to get 20 points in a game it would really help,'" he said. "You know (you've got a) good chance to win a game if you got three guys scoring 20 in a game.

"And we needed that."

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Barnes averaged 10.1 points per game during Steve Kerr's first year at the helm in 2014-15, and then 11.7 points per game the following season.

Over the 2015 and 2016 NBA Playoffs combined, he scored 20 or more points only one time (Game 5 of the 2015 Western Conference finals against the Houston Rockets).

[RELATED: Lacob acknowledges Warriors could trade down in NBA draft]

Assuming the Warriors are fully healthy next season, it might be difficult for Wiggins to average 20 per game. It's probably more realistic to expect him to register 15 to 18 points per night, but on the best shooting percentages of his career.

Combine that with consistent defense and engagement and Golden State would be thrilled with those results.

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