Photo Credit: Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports
This is the first installation of the Raptors Insider’s season preview, profiling the most important players on the Toronto Raptors roster for the upcoming season.
Approaching his fifth year as a pro, OG Anunoby has the opportunity to take his game to another level during the 2021-2022 NBA season. Anunoby has shown steady improvement in each of his first four seasons in the NBA, and the Toronto Raptors need OG to continue to improve and take that next step to an all-NBA level in order to return to relevance in the Eastern Conference this year.
Coming off a career year
Anunoby had a career year in 2020-2021, posting career-high averages of 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game. When key players like Kyle Lowry, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet were out with injury, OG showed he was ready for the increased responsibility.
The big jump in offensive production was the most welcome sight for Raptors fans. Anunoby averaged a career-high 12 field goal attempts a night while keeping his efficiency high, shooting 48% from the field and 39.8% from the three-point line.
Anunoby’s defensive presence is felt on a nightly basis, but when it combines with a hot shooting night it’s a scary sight for the opposing team. On January 24th, the Raptors defeated the Indiana Pacers 107-102 and Anunoby showed flashes of his best possible form. The Raptors development team has to be hopeful that they can find ways to allow Anunoby to have nights like this on a more consistent basis.
How high is the ceiling?
The sustained improvement over the past four seasons is encouraging, but the hope is that Anunoby can continue to improve his game this coming season and the years to come. Pascal Siakam was a prime example of a young player grinding and improving each season to reach all-star status, and Anunoby has that same blueprint in front of him.
The potential is there for OG to be selected to an all-NBA defensive team this season and there is sure to be some increased opportunity for more minutes and shot attempts with Kyle Lowry’s departure for Miami and Pascal Siakam easing his way back from shoulder surgery.
Anunoby showed he was ready for more responsibility last season, and with even more onus being put on him this season, Raptors fans will be eager to see how OG develops and adapts.
Raptors Insider stat prediction
The opposing team’s defenses will be sure to focus on Anunoby more this season with his increased responsibility. If he can keep his shooting percentages efficient and even close to the same as last season, we could see a big jump in his offensive numbers from last year once again.
Challenges and areas to improve
Anunoby continues to improve and become a more versatile player on both ends of the floor, but the time has come for OG to start tapping into those intangible skills.
Be more of a leader
The expectation is that every player will have to pick up some slack in the leadership category with Kyle Lowry, the team’s heart and soul for years, leaving the team. Anunoby is known for his quiet personality, but he can continue to lead by example with his game while also breaking out of his shell a bit more, trying to be a little more vocal.
Young rookie Scottie Barnes has a lot of potential and even some similarities to Anunoby’s game. If Anunoby can help guide Barnes at times through his first season, it will be extremely beneficial to their respective developments.
Make an all-defensive team
Anunoby has a very versatile defensive skill set and he is more than capable of making an all-defensive team this season. It will of course be dependent on the Raptors’ success, if they are able to garner some more wins in the East this season and get back into the playoff picture, Anunoby will be credited as the Raptors’ best defender.
Health has been Anunoby’s biggest weakness through the first four years of his career. After a full off-season of rest, the hope is that Anunoby can have the healthiest season of his career and put the nagging injuries behind him. The most Anunoby has played in a season is 74 games, which was his rookie year, while he only played 43 games this past campaign, often sitting out with a lingering calf injury.
Anunoby is debatably the most important and intriguing player to watch this season on the Raptors. The expectations are sky-high after his jump from last season, but the opposing team’s defenses will also be focusing on him as well. With his fifth season approaching, this will be an indicator to see how high OG Anunoby’s ceiling is and how successful of a career he has ahead of him.