Matt Babcock recently visited Maui, Hawaii to evaluate the large contingent of NBA prospects that participated in the 2019 Maui Invitational. Of the many prospects, two players stood out from the rest: Anthony Edwards of the Georgia Bulldogs and Obi Toppin of the Dayton Flyers. In this post, Babcock shares his experience visiting Maui and his thoughts on Edwards and Toppin as NBA prospects.
I have been fortunate enough to have had the opportunity to attend most major basketball events at some point or another. However, I had never been to the famed Maui Invitational. This past week I finally made the trip to Maui and it did not disappoint. Although I certainly enjoyed the beautiful ocean views, warm climate, and laid back culture, to name just a few things, I wasn’t there for a vacation. I was there to check out some hoops and let me tell you, I saw some great basketball! In a field that consisted of schools: BYU, UCLA, Chaminade, Dayton, Georgia, Kansas, Michigan State, and Virginia Tech, the tournament was stacked with future NBA players. However, of all the prospects at the Maui Invitational, two players stole the show: Anthony Edwards from Georgia and Obi Toppin from Dayton. I’d like to share my takeaways on each of them:
Position: SG | Height: 6’5” | Weight: 225 | College: Georgia
Although projected to be one of the top picks in the 2020 NBA Draft, I had not seen Anthony Edwards with my own eyes prior to the Maui Invitational. We had scouts that had seen him multiple times before, however, because he’s rated so highly; I felt I needed to see him myself, ASAP. Therefore, perhaps the main reason I decided to make the long haul to Maui was to evaluate Edwards closely. And that’s exactly what I did.
In the first game of the Maui Invitational, Georgia faced Dayton. Edwards did not play well, and his Bulldogs were beaten badly. His shot selection was horrible, he did not defend well, and his basketball IQ looked extremely behind. It was a bit concerning considering the lofty expectations. Still, I did not want to overreact to just one game. Luckily, there were two more days for me to evaluate him.
Michigan State was upset by Virginia Tech in the first round of the tournament, meaning after a tough first day for Edwards, he and the Georgia Bulldogs would have to face the third-ranked Michigan State Spartans — making things just a little more interesting.
The following day, once the game between Georgia and Michigan State began, it was apparent pretty quickly that Edwards’ struggles had continued. Going into halftime, Georgia trailed Michigan State by 21 points and Edwards had only 4 points — another poor showing. There was an elephant in the room. The room being the Lahaina Civic Center: a small gym filled with over thirty NBA scouts and personnel. I didn’t want to say it out loud to anyone but I was certainly thinking, “Is Edwards overrated? Is his draft stock slipping?”
Within a minute into the second half, Edwards had an errant pass which led to a turnover. Then a missed three, followed by an unsuccessful drive and shot. It felt like Edwards was in quicksand and he was sinking. It was hard to watch.
Then finally, the tide began to turn for Edwards as he got an easy layup, followed by a pull-up three, and then another one. At this point, I thought it was impressive that he had the mental toughness to play himself out of such a slump. Edwards began to start celebrating after plays, and the crowd began to get into the game more and more. This escalation continued for several minutes until it got to the point where Edwards was absolutely on fire! He made a bunch of contested pull-up threes from deep, mixed in with deep-two fadeaways, some great defensive plays, and a couple of incredible assists. He had only scored an inefficient 4 points in the first half, but finished that game with 37 points — 33 in the second half! He nearly brought Georgia back singlehandedly after a 21 point deficit. It was truly an incredible performance!
I walked away from Maui not just entertained by Edwards, but comfortable with the idea that he could realistically be the number one pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Despite Edwards displaying terrific resilience and talent in his performance versus Michigan State, I still think he has a lot of room for growth in terms of learning the game, improving his shot selection and decision making, as well as developing a consistent motor defensively. But after seeing his 37 point outburst in Maui, it’s exciting to think about how good he could actually become if he were to address the aforementioned concerns. Therefore, as of today, I see the 2020 NBA Draft being a three-horse race for the number one pick, including James Wiseman, Anthony Edwards, and LaMelo Ball — and it’s neck and neck.
Position: PF | Height: 6’9” | Weight: 220 | College: Dayton
Only standing 6’2” as a junior in high school, 6’5” as a senior, and now 6’9” as a redshirt sophomore in college, Obi Toppin is undoubtedly a late-bloomer. And although his physical growth trajectory has likely come to an end, his growth as a player on the court continues to blossom exponentially. His performance at the Maui Invitational last week is a perfect example of that.
Prior to my trip to Maui, I was extremely high on Toppin, perhaps higher than most, as I had him at number thirteen on the Babcock Hoops mock draft. Truth be told, I needed Toppin to step up so that I could save face. I entered the Maui Invitational certainly eager to see if top-rated prospect Anthony Edwards was everything he was hyped up to be, but also just as eager to confirm that my previous evaluations on Toppin were accurate.
To my satisfaction, once the game between Dayton and Georgia began, Toppin wasted no time making his presence felt as he racked up 14 points in the first six minutes, scoring inside and out. With the help of Toppin’s dominant play, Dayton beat Georgia 80-61. Toppin finished with 25 points — he was terrific!
He would continue his great play throughout the entire tournament, and despite being regularly double-teamed early in the championship game versus Kansas, Toppin never slowed down. Through three games in three days at the Maui Invitational, Toppin averaged 22.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, and 1.3 blocks per game, all while shooting 69% from the field (25-36) and 55% from outside (6-11). Keep in mind, these games were on a big stage versus Georgia, Virginia Tech, and Kansas, teams from the SEC, ACC, and Big 12.
Aside from Anthony Edwards’ huge second half versus Michigan State, Toppin was the talk of the town among the NBA scouts in Maui. His collective performance throughout the tournament surely relieved my stress that I had possibly ranked him too high. However, I had a different problem now: I wasn’t sure I had him ranked high enough.
Following the tournament, I sat down to organize my thoughts. Here is how I would describe Toppins game: At 6’9” with good length, possessing elite athleticism, Toppin not only has prototypical physical attributes, he has the skill set to match, as he does about everything you’d want from a modern-day power forward. On the offensive end, he is a threat to score on the low block, and around the rim, he is a good shooter from outside, he runs the floor and is a high flyer — pick your poison. Defensively, he is able to utilize his athleticism and physical tools to defend multiple positions, grab rebounds, and protect the rim. To go along with these terrific skills, he has a high motor, an infectious presence on the floor, but almost as important as anything, he has a high basketball IQ — he doesn’t make many mistakes and plays within himself.
Although NBA analytics departments are likely up in arms due to him already being twenty-one years old compared to many of the other NBA prospects that are eighteen and nineteen-year-olds, I don’t care, I think this kid is ready to go! Subsequently, I currently have Toppin as the fourth pick on the Babcock Hoops mock draft.
Am I right? Only time will tell.
Until then, hang loose!