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Obi Toppin, former Knicks lottery pick, traded to Pacers for underwhelming package

The Obi Toppin experiment is officially over. And the verdict is disappointment.

After three seasons that were simultaneously exciting and underwhelming, Toppin, the eighth overall pick in 2020, will be traded to the Pacers for two second-round picks, the Daily News confirmed.

Toppin’s $6.8 million salary will be absorbed into Indiana’s cap space, giving the Knicks a trade exception and financial flexibility as they still try to sign Donte DiVincenzo in free agency.

Toppin, 25, was the first draft selection of team president Leon Rose, and celebrated as an NBA-ready power forward after winning the NCAA’s Player of The Year.

But two hurdles became impossible to overcome: 1) he played behind Julius Randle, who emerged as an All-Star in Toppin’s rookie season, and 2) Toppin’s lax defense and rebounding was a hindrance to an increased role, especially in Tom Thibodeau’s system.

As The News reported, Toppin became increasingly frustrated by his lack of playing time. He got into a heated argument with assistant coach Rick Brunson during a regular season game in Philly, then another verbal spat with Thibodeau after a playoff loss in Miami, as first reported in The Athletic.

Audio of the Thibodeau incident — which occurred in and around the locker room — was allegedly leaked online months later. Although only Toppin’s voice could be discerned in the grainy audio, a source said Thibodeau was also aggressive during the argument.

Perhaps most important, however, is that Toppin is eligible for an extension this summer and could hit free agency in 2024. The circumstances called for a change. But the return compensation — two future second-round picks — is disappointing for a former lottery pick.

The move should help Toppin, who is represented by CAA and Leon Rose’s son, Sam. Not only are the Pacers still geared toward a youthful rebuild with opportunities for extended minutes, their uptempo style under Rick Carlisle is better suited for Toppin’s strengths in the open court.

The move also represents the Knicks continued commitment to Randle, whose All-Star regular season was followed by an ugly postseason and bouts of lackadaisical effort.

Toppin, who won the 2022 Slam Dunk contest, averaged seven points in 201 games over three seasons in New York. The Knicks now need to find a replacement at backup forward with no obvious candidate on the roster.

After the draft last month, the Knicks signed Toppin’s brother, Jacob, to a two-way contract. Jacob Toppin is expected to play for the Knicks in Summer League but scouts question whether he’s an NBA player.

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Source: Berkshire mont

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