Cavs: 2 realistic expectations for Obi Toppin if he’s 2020 draft pick

Dayton Flyers big Obi Toppin dunks the ball. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Dayton Flyers big Obi Toppin dunks the ball. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) /

Obi Toppin could make a difference early on for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cleveland Cavaliers are set to work out Obi Toppin, a likely lottery pick out of Dayton, and reigning 2020 Naismith Men’s Player of the Year this week, per a report from’s Chris Fedor.

With the current roster’s depth and lineups, the backup power forward would likely be Toppin if he was the fifth overall pick for Cleveland, although that could potentially be Larry Nance Jr/him at the 5 more. But, with a pick like Toppin at fifth overall, he is clearly in their long-term plans.

The same cannot definitively be said for Andre Drummond and Love. Drummond could potentially be a free agent this offseason, and per recent reports, is undecided on exercising his $28.7 million player option. Although it still seems likely that he does eventually pick that up, anyhow.

Kevin Love does not fit the Cavaliers rebuild and timeline, though, and one would think he could be traded in the not-too-distant future, also when considering he’s constantly in trade rumors. He is 32 and would be a better fit on a team that hasn’t finished second-to-last in each of the past two seasons.

So, whether it’s in the current rotation or down the line with varying roster moves, Toppin is bound to have high expectations and minutes on the rotation.

With that in mind, here are two realistic expectations from this combination for him with the Cavs.

The first has to do with Toppin in the pick-and-roll game, where he could make a difference right away as a roller/pick-and-pop threat.

#1: Toppin could be an impact roller/pick-and-pop player for the Cavs

This is a no-brainer. Toppin has expanded his arsenal recently by increasing his three-point attempts dramatically in his most recent season, and hit 39.0 percent of his 2.6 triple attempts per game in 2019-20. Toppin also possesses great athletic ability to explode to the rim, and had 20.0 points per game in his redshirt sophomore season at Dayton on 63.3 shooting.

It should be noted the Cavaliers’ most valuable assets, in relation to the near future potentially, currently are all three guards in Darius Garland, Collin Sexton and Kevin Porter Jr.

It is also worth noting as Evan Dammarell of Forbes pointed out, under then-new head coach J.B. Bickerstaff, the team had run more pick-and-roll leading into the then-novel coronavirus-induced hiatus/ultimately the end of last season for Cleveland.

The second expectation is we won’t see a huge sample of him in the first half of the season but should expect to see more in the second.

#2: Expect to see more of Toppin in the second half of next season if he’s drafted by the Cavs

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As previously mentioned, the two highest-paid players on the team are at his 4/5 positions, in the case Drummond were to opt in, which would still seem realistic, but won’t be Toppin.

Although Love’s fit is always going to be questionable, and Drummond can be a free agent in either this offseason or next or reportedly even be an expiring trade piece near next deadline. The odds are Love and Drummond will be the starting bigs heading into the season.

That could change throughout the season, especially if Toppin excels. One player that is a similar comparison to Toppin’s skill set is former NBA star Josh Smith, who was coached by J.B. Bickerstaff in Houston when he took over as interim head coach for the 2015-2016 season.

Both Toppin and Smith have shown a great ability to use their size and athleticism to get to the basket and can create tough matchups. The similarities go further than that, however.

Here was a quote from James Harden on what Smith brings to game, back then following a Houston Rockets win over the Milwaukee Bucks in January of 2016, via Fox Sports.

"“He just did the things that don’t show up in the stat sheet but that are effective and help teams win,” said James Harden, who led the team with 30 points. “We’re just happy to have him back.”"

Now here’s a quote regarding Obi Toppin from his former head coach Anthony Grant on how Toppin’s skills should translate to the NBA level, per an interview with Grant with Evan Daniels of 247 Sports. This was before his declaration, for context.

"“I think whenever he decides to make that jump, I think at 6-foot-9 with his skills, his athleticism, his basketball IQ I think there certainly will be a lot of opportunities for him to make somebody at that next level happy that they picked him.”"

This description of Toppin from his former head coach is very similar to Josh Smith’s ability to be explosive and use his IQ of the game to make the extra plays that help teams win.

Albeit Toppin’s defensive IQ needs to improve in coming years, especially if he were to be selected by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the 2020 NBA Draft, but his savvy offensively/his positioning there jumps out.

If Toppin can prove he has what it takes to compete in the NBA and prove he is more than a driving scorer, similar to Smith to a large extent in his career it seemed, the Cavaliers would be more than happy to figure out ways to get him onto the court more frequently. Toppin’s post/rolling polish shouldn’t discounted, though.

Next. Cavs: 2 goals for Obi Toppin if he's 2020 NBA Draft pick. dark

Looking onward, that along with the potential roadblocks with Drummond and Love could open up a lot of minutes for him should Cleveland eventually look to move those bigs.