New York Knicks Obi Toppin
(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Now that the New York Knicks have drafted Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley, what can fans expect from them their rookie year?

Josh Benjamin

Obi Toppin and Immanuel Quickley are the two latest New York Knicks rookies, courtesy of the 2020 NBA Draft.

All things considered, team president Leon Rose did a solid job in his inaugural draft at the helm. Toppin was the best player available when New York took its turn at No. 8. Quickley was an odd choice at No. 25, but can shoot the lights out and carries potential running the point. Rose also showed he wasn’t afraid to make deals for future second-round picks, as he did in trading Minnesota center Daniel Oturu to the Los Angeles Clippers.

But as much credit as Rose deserves, the spotlight is now squarely on Toppin and Quickley. Both young men must now face the pressure of playing in New York, and for a Knicks team that’s experienced a long two decades.

The 2020 NBA Draft class was considered weak, so how much should fans expect from the two newest Knicks?

Let’s take a deeper look and find out.

Toppin and poppin’

There was always the chance Obi Toppin would fall to the Knicks at No. 8, but no one expected it. After all, he’s the reigning Naismith College Player of the Year and averaged 20 points and 7.2 rebounds per game at Dayton last season.

Surely, the explosive dunker would be a top-five pick?

Well, fate had other ideas as Toppin fell, and the Brooklyn-born forward will soon don the orange and blue for his hometown team. However, exciting as the pick is, fans should temper their expectations for his rookie season — his immediate impact is far from certain.

First, the Knicks already employ Julius Randle at power forward. He’ll earn $18.9 million this season and averaged 19.5 points per game in New York last year. Randle also led the Knicks with 9.7 rebounds per game and was the team’s marquee addition last offseason after missing out on Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in free agency. He isn’t going to be immediately pushed aside for an unproven rookie.

Second, Toppin still has some developing to do despite his elite talent. His shot has three-point range and he’s a great dunker, but he doesn’t do much else on offense besides the occasional righty hook shot.

Last, and most important of all, Toppin is anything but an asset on defense. Playing for the defense-minded Tom Thibodeau, this won’t do him any favors.

Thus, Knicks fans can and should probably expect Toppin to average 20ish minutes per game off the bench as a rookie, at least in the beginning. The numbers won’t be eye-popping, but the potential is there for him to exceed expectations. All in all, look for his rookie year to be more similar to RJ Barrett’s than LeBron James’.

Scoring points Quickley

This pick surprised every Knicks fan under the sun. After trading down to No. 25, Rose selected Immanuel Quickley as everyone scratched their heads. Quickley wasn’t really considered a first-round prospect. This was a reach so high and far, even Stretch Armstrong was starting to ask questions. Additionally, Gary Parrish of CBS Sports graded the pick a D+.

Reach or not, Quickley is no slouch. He’s the reigning SEC Player of the Year. As a sophomore at Kentucky, he posted 16.1 points per contest and shot an incredible 42.8% from three-point range. New York needs to jumpstart the offense, so why not Quickley?

Here’s the rub: All offseason long, fans were expecting the Knicks to draft their franchise point guard of the future. Quickley, meanwhile, played shooting guard for the Wildcats while Ashton Hagans and Tyrese Maxey were the point guards.

Let’s just make one thing clear: Quickley isn’t going to suddenly surprise everyone and become an elite scoring point guard. RJ Barrett and Toppin can both handle the ball well, so they can create their own scoring opportunities without Quickley feeding them the rock.

Rather, Quickley’s range paired with strong defense means he’s probably going to be more of a three-and-D point guard. Think Frank Ntilikina, but with a little bit of Patrick Beverley’s drive and grit. It’s also worth noting Knicks assistant coach Kenny Payne came over from Kentucky, so he knows Quickley well.

He will not be a starter, at least not in the beginning. Heck, he might not even average 20 minutes per game at first. It will be easy to get impatient with Quickley and label him a bust, but as long as he hits his threes and makes a strong effort on defense, he’ll be everything the Knicks need him to be.

Final thoughts

Given the weak nature of this year’s NBA Draft class, the Knicks did an overall decent job. Immanuel Quickley will always be viewed as a reach until he actually plays some games for the team, and Obi Toppin’s talent speaks for itself.

Most important of all, however, is that the Knicks did not draft either of these players to become immediate playoff contenders. No, this draft was about making the team competitive and more exciting to watch. Toppin is a human highlight reel regardless of what team he’s on, so New York did well in drafting him. Quickley, if he pans out, could be a pleasant surprise in his own special way.

The rebuild isn’t over, far from it. There’s still a lot of work for Rose and general manager Scott Perry to do. Knicks fans are impatient, and rightfully so.

But this time feels different. In drafting Toppin, the front office showed it’s serious about improving the team. Quickley is probably an example of, to borrow a phrase from the Philadelphia 76ers, trusting the process.

Now, it’s simply a matter of being patient and letting the duo develop.

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