In his first year back in the NBA D-League after five years playing internationally with stops in both Spain and Germany, Chad Toppert has made his presence felt as one of the most lethal shooters in the entire league. Currently hitting over 47% of his 5.8 three-pointers per game, Toppert has been a great source of instant offense for a Reno Bighorns team that knows a thing or two about putting up points.
Standing 6'7 and weighing 220 pounds, he's never the most physically imposing player on the court, but his lights-out shooting prowess demands the attention of the defense at all times. He'll never be the go-to scorer for a team, but having a player like Toppert in the lineup allows David Arsenault Jr. and the rest of the Bighorns staff a ton of flexibility when they design their offensive game plan.
Toppert's role for the Bighorns and his ability on the court is very reminiscent of current NBA player Steve Novak, especially when Novak was playing around 20 minutes per game for the New York Knicks team that won 54 games during the 2012-2013 season.
One of his biggest skills aside from shooting, is his constant knowledge of where to be on the offensive end. This is especially beneficial on an up-tempo team like the Bighorns who can attack teams in transition. Novak was and is much in the same, in that they're both able to identify a soft spot in the defense as the rest of the team rushes up the court.
Even when the team isn't necessarily running the ball up the court, Toppert is able to take advantage when teams are not completely set in their half-court defense. It's these moments of confusion on defense that allows him to hit the defense before they even see it coming.
His offensive awareness is incredibly useful while the defense is still adjusting, but even while everyone is set, he's able to keep his feet moving and create open passing lanes for his teammates. He shuffles along the perimeter as the ball moves around and it can often lead to open looks, one's that wouldn't be there had he not be actively anticipating what the defense was going to do.
This type of weapon for the Bighorns is truly invaluable, as deficits can be made up within seconds or leads can grow within the blink of an eye. In this particular situation, Toppert goes on a 7-0 run by himself in a matter of around 20 seconds in a game that Reno ended up winning by just six points.
Much like Novak, Toppert isn't going to make much of a difference on the defensive side. His relative lack of athleticism limits him against quicker offensive players and he can be overpowered by larger forwards. He's not all that great of a rebounder, either, but you'll never see him giving less than 100% in either area.
Despite his shortcomings on that end, he's still overwhelmingly a net-positive whenever he's on the court. He's part of the top-3 lineups from Reno this season in terms of plus/minus and he ranks second overall in Net Rating on the team, with an impressive 11.8 (just 0.2 behind David Stockton).
With the NBA and especially the D-League shifting each year to a more perimeter-focused game, players like Toppert are going to become more and more valuable. His ability to stretch out the defense opens up lanes for guys like Ricky Ledo to drive to the net and for Vince Hunter to work down low.
Toppert and his NBA counterpart Novak will never be recognized as star players, but the skill set that they bring to the court is one that any team would kill to have.