If you look up the definition of ‘vertical spacer’ in the dictionary a picture of Obi Toppin will be staring back at you. He has great explosion, massive catch radius around the rim, great body control and soft hands. His screen setting can be soft at times but that’s because he likes to leave early on his rolls and dive on a tightrope. Sometimes when he dives off ball screens he’ll waste motion by opening up his body in the wrong direction, as if he’s caught in between wanting to dive or pop. Most of his offensive possessions were in the post or transition but displayed some pick-and-pop ability and can be a floor spacer. When he doesn’t put enough sway into his shot release he can have accuracy issues but for a ‘big’ he has workable mechanics for the next level. If he’s going to be a floor spacer he’s going to have to be better attacking closeouts; he can ball fake or rip-and-go but typically takes a couple of dribbles with minimal scoring variety. Really doesn’t attack off the bounce. He can fake dribble hand-off at the wing, turn, take a couple of pound dribbles, cover space quickly, hop step and finish with off hand. He can put his head down and drive in a straight line, have wide strides on his gather and finish with touch at the rim. His driving ability and handle definitely need improving but his gathering ability is pretty verse for someone his size. One of the better ‘big’ passers in the draft. Off a short drive he can pass on the move and find baseline cutters with help drawing in. When he was in the post he would find opposite side shooters, opposite block ‘bigs’ or slot cutters. Although, at times he’d force the issue and not find open players breaking free and be more zoned into scoring. The way the NBA is trending being able to pass as a big could be a differentiating factor for Toppin.
Toppin’s defense can be summed up pretty easily: too upright. He has such great athletic ability but relies too heavily on his natural quickness and explosion. The issue could be how narrow his lower body is, not having wide hips, a strong butt or a stable anchor. You can see it in the post when he gets overpowered or you can see it when he’s corralling the pick-and-roll with no center of gravity. He can get away with it because he’s tall with long arms, good athleticism, solid timing and most importantly, quick off the ground. He’s so quick off the ground and has such a good second jump to the point that he can cover up his low playing style. And since he doesn’t play defense low enough his angles he’ll take can be off line. Maintaining a strong armbar was one of the major ways he was still able to funnel any dribble penetration on-ball. It also helped him stay attached to quicker players and getting blocks from behind. A lot of times instead of setting up verticality at rim he’ll brace for block or he won’t leave his man unless he sees a clear block/steal opportunity. Toppin can jump the passing while playing 3/4 denial defense on the post but becomes out of position too easily, happens more than what I like to see. That need to create on defense puts him in a poor position at times. Every now and then when he did play on his toes and showed good fundamentals he showed the potential to be a 1 through 5 defender but due to lack of strength and anchor Toppin just might be a 2 through 4 defender.