When we entered the 2020 SB Nation Mock Draft, we knew there were rules we’d have to play by. The ‘no trading picks’ directive limited options the Boston Celtics might consider to consolidate our three selections (14th, 26th and 30th). Our goal was to find one guy who was best player available, one international prospect to prevent the roster size from growing and one floor-spacer who can play right away.
However, draft slides by two picks we targeted as top-ten guys on our board to both 14 and 26 changed the way the pieces fit together. We’re thrilled with the guys we brought to Boston and believe the Celtics’ offense will be tops in the league for the better part of the next decade as a result.
With the 14th pick, the Celtics took Obi Toppin, a 6’9” forward from Dayton. Toppin was the most decorated player in college basketball this year: the consensus National Player of the Year leading the Flyers to a 29-2 record. Playing under former NBA assistant Anthony Grant, the offense in Dayton was highly modern and resembled the versatility of an NBA team. Toppin, playing a hybrid 4 and 5, was an inside-outside beast who could score in any way: in the post, from deep, or in transition.
The stat line and numbers from Toppin were ridiculous: 20.0 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.2 blocks, 1.0 steals per game on 63.3 percent shooting and 39.0 percent from deep. As eye-popping as those numbers are, the highlights were equally so. His high-flying dunks and multiple fast-break windmills have made him an internet sensation.
Of course, the game isn’t played in a three-minute YouTube clip. Toppin slid down to 14th in the SB Nation Mock for a reason: he’s already 22 years old (he’s one day younger than Jayson Tatum) and has some struggles defensively. While most mocks don’t have Toppin slipping past 8th with the New York Knicks, any slip farther would be shocking on draft night.
The Celtics decided to pull the trigger on a top-five guy sliding down to 14th because he fits our timeline for winning, is at a position of need, and at the very least is a pick with trade value should we decide mid-season to bring in another veteran presence. His offensive prowess would make him an attractive centerpiece to those deals.
If Toppin remains wearing the green, he’s the offensive option to supplant Daniel Theis at center. Toppin’s NBA position is best-served being at the 5, where he can most easily mask his defensive concerns. The Celtics lack of pick-and-pop options at the 5 would be remedied with Toppin, a consistent shooter who opens up the rest of the offense elsewhere.
Of course, there are downsides to taking Toppin. His defensive effort was never too high at Dayton, he chases blocks at all times and isn’t exactly switchable based on some stiff hips and poor lateral athleticism.
He’s another score-first guy on a Celtics team that needs guys who can mesh with Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Kemba Walker. Toppin isn’t a poor fit, though his success will defend on the effort and strides he makes defensively, as well as how he accepts being the fourth cog on a really good team.
We’ll be on the clock with the 26th pick and look to add another piece in the backcourt or on the wings. The Toppin selection at 14 works with this Celtics team, as unrealistic as his slide here was. He was the best player available on the board and has enough external value to land a good haul if Danny Ainge wants to be active on the trade market.