By Lenn Robbins
The line of the night, which is often the case when basketball is spoken, was uttered by ESPN’s Jay Bilas. Bilas, and I’m paraphrasing here, said the one thing you’re guaranteed of in a draft is getting a rookie.
Which is a much more clever way of saying, “No one knows for certain what they’re getting.”
Iowa State’s Tyrese Haliburton could develop into the next classic point guard. Dene Avdija could be the Jewish Luka Doncic, which certainly would play well in this town. One never knows.
Just as one never knows what will become of the Knicks two first-round picks- Nos. 8 and 25 – in Wednesday night’s NBA Draft.
But it sure seems a fair bet that Dayton’s Obi Toppin and Kentucky’s Immanuel Quickley are players. They make plays. Toppin, who the Knicks took with the eighth pick, doesn’t dunk the ball. He abuses the rim, demoralizes the net and brings the crowd to its feet.
It hasn’t happened a lot lately but, really, is there a better place to be than in The Garden when 20,789 Knicks fans explode from their chairs? Ask John Starks.
Obadiah (Obi) Richard Toppin is the hometown boy makes good. The Brooklyn native was a one-star recruit coming out Mt. Zion Prep in Baltimore. Dayton coach Anthony Grant, who learned about the competitiveness of NYC players as an assistant to Billy Donovan at Florida, offered Toppin. Mr. One Star became the consensus Player of the Year last season.
“I think he’s just scratching the surface of what he could be,” Grant recently said.
The same can be said of Immanuel Jaylen Quickley, a former McDonald’s All American and four-year member of USA Basketball. He is a not a shooter. He is a point guard who is a sharpshooter. Quickley made 42.8-percent of his 3’s and 92.3-percent of this free throws at Kentucky.
“There’s no question in my mind that his growth in the NBA will be on the same path that it was here, which is steep,’’ Wildcats coach John Calipari told reporters. Calipari once threatened to pull the player he dubbed “IQ” for not shooting. That player went on to win SEC Player of the Year honors.
There are no guarantees these rookies will grow into Amar’e Stoudemire or Mario Chalmers, players they been compared to. But they are players. Toppin is going to dunk like he wants to open a chapter of Phi Slamma Jamma on 7th Avenue. Quickley is going to make shots like he’s an NRA member.
The Knicks should be entertaining to watch.
And here’s possibly the best part. From what Grant, Calipari and many others say, Toppin and Quickley are good dudes, hard-working guys, high-IQ players.
“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,” Grant said of Toppin, who openly wept on ESPN when his hometown team drafted him.
“I’m from New York, that’s why it’s important,” Toppin said. “I’m not going to take it for granted.”
Neither will Quickley.
“He is a wonderful, centered young man who has fought his way to the point of being a first-round draft pick,” Calipari said of Quickley.
Sounds like Toppin and Quickley can’t get here fast enough.