In the 2019-2020 basketball season, Dayton power forward Obi Toppin dominated college basketball in a way that isn’t frequently done. Sure, Dayton didn’t play in a Power-6 conference, but that largely meant that Toppin drew double-teams, sometimes triple teams, yet he still put up huge numbers night in and night out. Those numbers (20 points, 7.5 rebounds per game) came even with Toppin averaging 31 minutes per game, often playing under 30 due to Dayton’s blowouts. He was still the Flyers’ leading scorer in 19 of their 31 games, while leading in rebounding 17 times. Toppin garnered high praise from his peers, with Michigan State’s Cassius Winston saying “He made the game look way too easy on a nightly basis” in an interview back in March. Even if the numbers don’t shock you, only watching Toppin play can truly show the ease with which he dominated the game, flushing down powerful dunks, recording massive blocks – 12 games with two or more – and simply fueling the Flyers through their wildly successful season. The mid-major power lost just twice, both times in overtime – once to Kansas and once to Colorado.
Picking just one or two top games from a player as consistent as Toppin is an exceptionally difficult task, but the two contests we’ve decided to highlight are his season opener against Indiana State, and a late-December clash versus North Florida. In the opener, as Dayton gotten their feet under them against the feisty Sycamores, Toppin simply became their answer to every Indiana State charge. Scoring 29 points on 10-16 shooting, collecting twelve rebounds, and finishing out the game with an 8-11 performance from the free throw line in an 86-81 victory to start the season.
Against North Florida, Toppin posted a season-high 31 points, while also notching 8 rebounds in a breezy post-Christmas win. Toppin also showed up in big games, averaging 21.9 points in games decided by less than 10 points. He put up 18 points against Kansas at the Maui Invitational, often while doing battle against Kansas’s Udoka Azubuike, a 7’0 force in the paint.
Toppin has a lot of strengths that NBA scouts love, including his ability to avoid fouls as a big man, averaging just 2.2 per game in 2019-2020, and his offensive efficiency is excellent. At 6’9, 220 pounds, Toppin fits in well as an NBA power forward, although he could probably improve his rebounding a little bit. Averaging a touch under eight rebounds per game certainly does not drop any jaws, given Toppin’s size. He still figures to be one of the top power forwards available, and he’s a virtual shoe-in to go within the first ten picks of the draft.
Prediction: Round 1, Pick 7, Chicago Bulls
Toppin could go way earlier than this, but I think a few of the teams projected to draft earlier than the Bulls simply have other needs. The Hawks and Cavaliers will likely look for best available playmakers, like Anthony Edwards or LaMelo Ball, while the Knicks will likely look to target their point guard of the future. There are a few concerns about where Toppin’s ceiling is, and so teams looking for high upside may go elsewhere. If the Warriors pick #1 and are looking for an NBA-ready player for them to surge back into championship contention, I would not be surprised at all to see Steve Kerr bring Toppin to Cali. However, after the Warriors, I think the Bulls are next most logical spot for Toppin to slot in, and he’ll be headed to the Windy City, where he fills a big need for a versatile 3 or 4 type of player to star alongside point guard Zach LaVine.