The New York Knicks aren’t considered to be among the best NBA franchises when it comes to decision-making, or anything at all, to be fair.
But rival league general managers seem to be on board with the team’s decision to draft Obi Toppin.
The 22-year-old forward was selected as the eighth overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft and has come out ahead of most in the Rookie of the Year poll, behind only Charlotte Hornets point guard LaMelo Ball and Golden State Warriors center James Wiseman.
The NBA.com’s annual survey of GMs revealed as much, with Ball and Wiseman taking 39 percent and 29 percent, respectively, with Toppin snagging 18 percent. This is saying quite a lot, given that Toppin was always unlikely to beat the Hornets and Warriors rookies, but he’s actually topped the No.1 overall pick Anthony Edwards, who garnered seven percent of the voting after being drafted by the Minnesota Timberwolves.
Toppin finished seventh in the category of rookie expected to be the best NBA player in five years. Wiseman topped that list with 39 percent.
The Knicks rookie was also considered to be the fifth draftee as it pertains to the “biggest steal at where he was selected,” coming in behind the Sacramento Kings’ Tyrese Haliburton (12th), Saddiq Bey (19th) of the Detroit Pistons, New Orleans’ Kira Lewis (13th) and Tyrese Maxey, who was drafted at No.21 by the Philadelphia 76ers.
The GM’s selections coincide with the betting favorites for the Rookie of The Year Award too.
Where such NBA picks are concerned, Ball is the 4/1 favorite, Wiseman and Edwards are 9/2, and Toppin is right behind at 13/2.
Toppin hails from Brooklyn and played for Ossining at the high school level. He played two years for the Dayton Flyers prior to his joining the draft and has averaged 7.7 points and 6.0 rebounds per game for the Knicks in preseason action, ahead of their final match against the Cleveland Cavaliers that will wrap things up for the official start of the 2020/21 season. The new term tips off on Tuesday, December 22 – the Knicks will begin their season with a game against Eastern Conference counterparts, the Indiana Pacers, on Wednesday.
The Knicks’ new head coach, Tom Thibodeau has been tipped to ring in drastic improvement, with GMs voting him in fifth as the new or relocated coach who will make the biggest impact on his new team.
Two-time MVP and eight-time NBA All-Star Steve Nash leads all head coaches in that category at 28 percent. Doc Rivers, who wasted little time in becoming the Sixers head coach after getting fired by the Los Angeles Clippers, took 24 percent of the votes, with his replacement Tyronn Lue getting 16 percent ahead of his first season back as a head coach since he was fired by the Cavaliers in 2018. New Orleans’ Stan Van Gundy also got 16 percent, with Thibodeau and new Chicago Bulls custodian Billy Donovan both garnering eight percent.
Milwaukee Bucks superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo has been tipped to win a third straight MVP Award, taking 32 percent of the GM’s votes in the pertinent poll. Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks got 21 percent, the Los Angeles Lakers’ Anthony Davis and LeBron James were voted in by 18 percent of the executives while Brooklyn Nets forward Kevin Durant was selected by seven percent of them.
The Lakers are favorites to repeat on that front with an 89 percent vote, the Clippers are way behind at 11 percent. The Los Angeles teams also top the bookmakers’ favorites at 11/4 and 6/1. The Bucks are 11/2, the Nets 11/2, and the Boston Celtics are 15/1. The Miami Heat are 17/1 after their unlikely run to the NBA finals last season. The Lakers and Clippers will headline the opening night with a showdown next week. The Lakers are favored to take this one at 4/5 while the Clippers are 5/4.
Meanwhile, the Knicks are 7/2 to beat the 5/19 Pacers the following night and are 150/1 to win the NBA Championship at the end of the campaign.
Thibodeau is expected to improve the team’s defense, if nothing else, and the change has been clear for all to see.
New York has looked pretty solid in the preseason and the new coach has attracted high praise from Don Chaney, who served as the Knicks’ head coach from 2001 to 2003 while Thibodeau was an assistant coach with the team.
“I noticed his work ethic, his defensive mind,” Chaney said. “It stood out right away that he knew what he was talking about, that he had a passion for defense. It doesn’t matter what he has on the floor, they will be a better defensive team for sure.”
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