3. Obi Toppin
Against the San Antonio Spurs, stopping Victor Wembanyama was one of the Indiana Pacers’ top priorities. And while Isaiah Jackson had the highlight, Obi Toppin was a big part of that gameplan, too.
After the game, Toppin spoke about how the Pacers’ plan was to be physical with the French phenom, and it worked out well. Toppin guarded Wembanyama for stretches and found success.
Well, against the Utah Jazz, Toppin should have another high-level defensive matchup on his hands in Lauri Markkanen - an All-Star and last year’s Most Improved Player.
Markkanen has been having a great season thus far, averaging 24.0 points on 47.1% shooting from the field and 43.6% shooting from behind the three-point line.
Based on size and lineup structure, it seems likely that Toppin draws the challenge of guarding Markkanen for the majority of the contest, and his success in that matchup could have a huge impact on the Pacers’ chances of winning.
Toppin hasn’t necessarily been known for his defensive play throughout his short career, but he’s a big body, and if he wants to stick around in the Pacers’ starting lineup, he needs to continue to improve on that end of the court.
If Toppin steps up like he did against Wembanyama, Indiana will be in good shape. Of all the matchups on the court, Toppin vs. Markkanen could be the more intriguing one to monitor.