Knicks fans will finally get their long-desired look at young forward Obi Toppin’s game, as starting forward Julius Randle will “likely” miss the remainder of the season — opening up a starting spot for the 24-year-old.
Randle has been suffering from a nagging quad injury, and Head Coach Tom Thibodeau said the veteran power forward is expected to miss the rest of the Knicks’ schedule, which has just 4 games left. The announcement game before Saturday night’s matchup against the Cleveland Cavaliers, which the Knicks lost, but Toppin performed above expectations in his new-found starting role.
Making his 6th start in his young career, the 6-foot 9-inch big man recorded a team-high 20 points, along with 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the Saturday night matchup at MSG.
Toppin, who the Knicks selected 8th overall in the 2020 NBA Draft, has produced disappointing results for the team — though many have attributed his decline to the rise of Randle, who plays the same position, and has dominated the available minutes through the last 2 seasons.
Raandle, since Toppin joined the team, has averaged 36.45 minutes per game, while the young draft pick has seen the court for only 13.5 minutes each contest during the same timeframe.
Fans have blames Toppin’s lack of playtime for his lackluster two seasons in blue and orange, but the Knicks brass has continued to stick with the veteran Randle — who first signed with the Knicks in 2019, before posting a breakout season in 2020-21, when he won the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award, along with a spot on the All-NBA Second Team.
Randle signed an extension with the team prior to this season worth $117 million over 4 years.
The veteran’s emergence at the Garden has put a damper on fans’ hopes that Toppin could be a long-term asset for the team, after he garnered favorable comparisons coming out of college to NBA greats like Amar’e Stoudemire.
This season, Randle has seen per-game declines in most important statistical categories from his career-best performance the year prior — including points, rebounds, assists, and field goal percentage.
That has led many Knicks fans to clamor for Toppin to take the court, and see what the young asset can do.
An impressive .516 field goal percentage on his career suggests that Toppin may be the efficient big-man that the Knicks need to pair with their young core of RJ Barret and Immanuel Quickley — and fans may get a chance to see that prospect with their own eyes over the final stretch of the season.
Meanwhile, Randle continues to be the center of trade speculation for the Knicks, just as he was at this season’s NBA deadline, when he was inextricably linked to proposed deals involving players like Sacramento Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, or Detroit Pistons power forward Jerami Grant.