No one keeps track of former Dayton Flyers in the pro basketball ranks better than Damon Durbin, a 2008 University of Dayton graduate who lives in Reynoldsburg.
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Durbin started a Twitter account titled “ProLOWD” in 2017 and has kept tabs on everyone from Brian Roberts to Kostas Antetokounmpo ever since. He has been especially busy since March posting updates on Obi Toppin, who entered his name in the draft 18 days after playing his final college game and 13 days after the NCAA tournament was cancelled.
While Toppin’s wait for the draft has been longer than expected — it has been delayed from June until Oct. 16 because of the coronavirus pandemic — he has benefited from his status as a likely lottery pick. Durbin has a long thread on Twitter featuring screenshots of items Toppin has been sent by various companies, items Toppin has photographed and shared on Instagram Live.
Here’s a rundown of the gifts: an all-access card from Wing Stop; dozens of bottles of Gatorade and a drink called Body Armor; a new XBox; a mug and free samples from David’s Tea; four boxes of bottles from Eternal Naturally Alkaline Spring Water; samples of Skittles and Smart Sweets; shoes from Nike; and most recently a T-shirt and hat personally designed by former Dayton point guard Scoochie Smith, who also included a note wishing Toppin luck in the draft.
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Of course, the real prizes for Toppin will be the opportunity to play in the NBA next season and the salary that comes with it. First-round picks sign contracts that are guaranteed for the first two years, so if Toppin is drafted in the top 10, he would make more than $8 million in his first two years and about twice as much if he goes in the top three.
Draft analyst Matt Babcock, of BabcockHoops.com, projects Toppin will be picked third by the Minnesota Timberwolves. The order of the first round won’t be set until the NBA Draft Lottery on Aug. 25, making current mock drafts all the more difficult to compile.
“I think Minnesota would be a perfect situation for him,” Babcock told the Dayton Daily News, “as he can be paired next to star big man Karl-Anthony Towns with newly acquired D’Angelo Russell at the helm. I think they would be an extremely dynamic and exciting trio together.”
Babcock has been high on Toppin since he burst onto the national scene with his performance in the Maui Invitational, four months before he swept almost every national player of the year award. Babcock predicted then Toppin would be the fourth overall pick.
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“There is a lot that I like about Obi’s game,” Babcock said, “but what I like the most is his unique combination of explosiveness and ability to shoot the ball from outside. His skillset and style of play should fit into today’s NBA game seamlessly.”
Babcock doesn’t think the cancellation of the NCAA tournament will affect Toppin’s draft stock much, if at all. NBA teams had plenty of time to scout Toppin, he said, and every team had at least one scout in Maui. Toppin’s age — he turned 22 in March — also shouldn’t hurt him, Babcock said, even though no one 22 or older was picked in the top 10 last year.
“Age is certainly a factor that is taken into account when evaluating draft prospects,” Babcock said. “However, in Obi’s case, I do not think it should be of much concern because he is ready to step in and play a prominent role for an NBA team right away.”
Babcock isn’t the only draft analyst who expects Toppin to hear his name called early on draft day. Here’s a rundown of what other experts are saying:
Jonathan Givony, ESPN: He predicts Toppin will be drafted seventh overall by the Chicago Bulls.
“The best offensive player in college basketball,” Givony wrote, “Toppin brings high-flying dunks and deep pick-and-pop 3s that would infuse a level of excitement into the Bulls’ fan base.”
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USA Today: Three writers from the paper combined on a mock draft that has Toppin going to the Minnesota Timberwolves with the No. 3 pick.
“At 22, Toppin is older than most of his counterparts so he might be close to his ceiling,” they wrote. “But what’s important: how his high motor and highlight-reel dunking translate at the next level. USA TODAY Sports’ national college basketball player of the year can do a mix of everything, including stepping out on the perimeter and mastering pick and rolls.”
Matt Norlander, CBSSports.com: Norlander compiled a mock drafted based on who he thinks will have the best NBA career, and he ranked Toppin No. 1 — ahead of Georgia’s Anthony Edwards, who most expect to be the first pick.
“I watched about 75 percent of Dayton’s games last season,” Norlander wrote. “Toppin, for me, projects as the safest pro of the bunch. Strong, agile, good handle for his size, really nice shooter, great at drawing fouls, good defender, excellent team player, fine knack for getting the right shot from short range.”
» KEEPING TRACK: A guide to Toppin’s many awards
Aran Smith, NBADraft.net: Smith predicts the Golden State Warriors will get the No. 1 pick and select Edwards with Toppin going to the Cleveland Cavaliers with the No. 2 pick.
“Toppin is the age of a senior and has become a consensus top-five pick on team’s draft boards,” Smith wrote. “He may be older than your average lottery pick, but he’s a physical specimen, capable of highlight plays on a nightly basis. He brings a level of NBA readiness and maturity that few of the other top prospects can match.”
Jessica Learish, 247Sports.com: She’s one of the few writers who doesn’t have Toppin in the top 10. She predicts the San Antonio Spurs will draft him at No. 12.
Toppin, Learish writes, “will fit nicely into Gregg Popovich’s system. The Spurs have struggled in the 2019-20 season, with tepid defensive showings and a clunky offense that doesn’t do enough passing. The team needs an injection of energy, and the high-flying Toppin can provide just that.”
Rob Dauster, NBCSports.com: He predicts Toppin will be drafted behind James Wiseman and Edwards, going to the Timberwolves with the third pick.
“The reason that Toppin’s floor is so high is because of how well he fits as a role player at the next level,” Dauster wrote. “Anthony Grant’s offense at Dayton was as close to a modern NBA scheme as you are going to find in the college game, and the reason he is able to play that way has everything to do with Toppin’s skill set.”
Gary Parrish, CBSSports.com: He predicts the Warriors will draft LaMelo Ball with the top pick with Toppin going to the Cavs at No. 2.
“He’s a super-athletic forward who dunks everything — he actually led the nation in dunks — and consistently makes jumpers in pick-and-pop situations,” Parrish wrote.
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