I began our series of 2020 NBA draft profiles with a player that everyone is familiar with, primarily because of his family, Lamelo Ball. He’s an intriguing selection for several reasons, but more than anything, because of the way he might fit with Trae Young. It could turn into the most explosive offensive backcourt in the NBA or an absolute disaster, but they would be must-see TV every night. Today, we take a look at a player that wasn’t talked about nearly enough coming out of high school but quickly established himself as a top NBA prospect after a few years in college.
Like Ball, Toppin plays a position that the Hawks have covered pretty well right now with John Collins. However, I will continue to re-iterate this — since Atlanta is guaranteed a top-eight selection and has only won 49 games over the past two seasons, their focus will remain strictly on the best player available. Positions don’t matter right now, and Toppin is bursting with NBA potential.
The 6’9″, 230-pound power forward already has the size of an NBA player, allowing him to own the low-post during his time at Dayton. However, that sturdy frame doesn’t take away from his ability to play above the rim. He’s an alley-oop machine that loves finishing with explosive jams, even if there is contact. He burst onto the scene as a redshirt freshman, averaging 14.4 points on 67.6% shooting from two in 2018-2019. Toppin also shot an eye-popping 52.4% from three; however, that was only on 0.6 attempts per game. We needed to see a larger sample size to really get a feel for his ceiling, and he showed us that in the shortened 2019-2020 season.
On 2.6 three-point attempts per game, Toppin shot 39%, and there’s no reason to believe that won’t translate to the NBA. His shooting stroke is smooth with a high release point, making it extremely difficult to block, and if bigger defenders attempt to take that shot away, he can put the ball on the floor and explode to the basket, where he is an elite finisher. He usually makes the smart play, whether it is not settling for the jumper and taking it to the rim or dishing it off to one of his teammates, as he averaged over two assists per game last season.
While there aren’t many flaws in Toppin’s game, he didn’t prove to be an elite rebounder in college, averaging just 7.5 rebounds per game this past season. He’s also not much of a shot-blocker despite his explosiveness, posting only 1.2 blocks per contest. However, Dayton did use him at the five a lot over the season, showing off his versatility, which is a huge plus in today’s NBA that loves small-ball lineups.
With the Hawks looking to make a run at the playoffs as early as next year, they will be hard-pressed to find a player more NBA-ready than Toppin. His floor is so high, and his versatility should allow him to fit on the floor with John Collins, who has plenty of experience playing the five in the NBA. He should be a top-five selection in this year’s draft and contribute from the start wherever he lands.