Photo credit: Mike Stobe/Getty Images (2020)
As university students slowly receive their final marks for their classes, we here at The Raptors Insider decided to grade the players of the Toronto Raptors.
From May 18th to June 3rd we’ll be releasing a report card for a Raptors player, giving our opinion on their individual performance.
For a man of so few words, OG Anunoby was doing a lot of talking with his performance this season.
As we continue to hand out report cards to all Raptors players, Anunoby stands out as the star student. He made statistical leaps in almost every major category this season and made a major impact for the Raptors every time he was on the court.
Despite only playing 43 games this season, Anunoby’s presence on the team was decidedly positive. He continues to establish himself as one of the league’s top defenders, and with his growth offensively, is now firmly putting himself in conversation as one of the better two-way players as well.
Without further ado, let’s dive in:
Back in January, we shined a spotlight on OG Anunoby’s offensive evolution. Not only did it hold up throughout the year, but he progressively got better and is seen as a legitimate offensive threat. It would be disingenuous to assess him any other grade.
Anunoby took massive strides in his offensive game this season, upping his points per game from 10.6 to 15.9. Not only this, but he averaged a career-high 2.2 assists per game this season, adding a new dimension to his game. He was the team’s most improved player on this side of the ball, and late in the season he often looked like the second-best scoring option.
It would be incredibly easy to write off Anunoby’s point uptick by attributing it to increased volume. When players take on more responsibility with a team, it is extremely common for their shooting to take a dip as they take more shots and are defended a little more closely.
Anunoby’s usage percentage did climb approximately five points, a significant leap, but here’s the thing: his efficiency improved despite a much higher volume of the offence running through him. Thanks to career-highs in three point percentage (39.8) and free throw percentage (78.4), Anunoby’s true shooting percentage went up a slight tick to a career-best 60.5 percent, well above league average.
Early in OG Anunoby’s career, he was heralded as a 3-and-D specialist. The most involvement he would have within the offensive schemes was catch-and-shoot threes.
This season, he has completely rewritten the narrative. Thanks to an improved handle, better coordination, and more confidence overall, Anunoby has diversified his game and is now a serious threat from almost anywhere on the court.
One of the biggest jumps in his game has been on drives. When OG drives to the basket, he has been incredibly effective. Anunoby is either scoring or generating an assist on nearly 70 percent of his drives, which is ten percentage points higher than it was in the 2019-20 season.
This opens up the floor in a big way, to where defenders now need to sag off him to defend the drive, as it’s become a real threat. Remember, though: he’s still one of the better knockdown shooters in the league, with a 63.2 effective field goal percentage on catch-and-shoot plays.
He’s even dabbled in post-ups a bit, averaging 1.7 post-ups per game. While he only shot 35.7 percent in these scenarios, there was significant improvement as the season went on.
Take for example a game early in the season against the Indiana Pacers, where OG did just about everything to lead the Raptors to a win:
This was one of Anunoby’s first offensive outbursts early in the season, and one that really stood out for how he was able to score in many different scenarios. Whether it be catch-and-shoot threes, posting up Domantas Sabonis, or cruising by on a drive, Anunoby’s full arsenal was on display in this game. It really showed how multi-dimensional he has become.
Growth and Maturity
While there are no stats to quantify maturity in the game of basketball, Anunoby absolutely showed growth this year.
As he continued to diversify his game, and as he got more involved in the offence, he was simply reading his defenders on a level we haven’t quite seen in previous years. He was anticipating where his defender was going to be, and reacted accordingly. The decisiveness with which he was moving has significantly improved.
One of his final games of the season came against the Brooklyn Nets in late April, and the growth over the course of the year is quite evident:
The way he reads the game is on a different level. He faked out his defender to draw the foul, he has a quick jab step to get by his defender, and makes a beautiful read on a pass to Chris Boucher.
The OG of two years ago wouldn’t be making these plays, but he’s arrived now and not going anywhere. His transformation into a complete offensive player only makes him that much more valuable to the Raptors.
Here is the full list of forwards that averaged at least 1.5 steals per game and 0.5 blocks per game this season: Matisse Thybulle, Draymond Green, Larry Nance Jr., and Anunoby.
Simply put, there are very few players that do as much as OG on this end.
In addition to the 1.5 steals per game, Anunoby also ranked eighth in the league in deflections per game. Thanks to his seven-foot-three wingspan, Anunoby disrupts almost any play as a primary defender. His strong instincts allow him to stay in front of his man, and he is tasked nightly with guarding the team’s opposing best player.
This all translates to the team being much better with him on the court. He has a net rating of plus-3.3, and the team has an on-court plus-minus of 7.0 per 100 possessions with Anunoby on the floor. Opponents shoot 2.2 percent below their regular levels when he is on the court, indicating he is a significant plus defender.
Perhaps OG’s most important calling card on this end is the fact that he can guard all over the court, not just limited to any specific area.
Thanks to his strong instincts and brute strength, not only is Anunoby a disruptor on the perimeter, but opponents have trouble scoring inside as well. Between five and nine feet from the basket, opponents only shoot 35.5 percent against OG, a mark that would rank him near the top of the league amongst rotation regulars.
Yet, on the perimeter, he has no issues keeping up with his man. Take in this defensive sequence against Cleveland’s Damyean Dotson:
The way he is able to scramble and counter Dotson’s speed all over the court and force a shot clock violation is not something many people can do in the league. Dotson makes a series of moves, and Anunoby is able to keep up with every single one. It takes an elite level of discipline and awareness to be able to make that play, and yet he does it with such ease.
For the past two seasons, Anunoby has been one of the league’s premier defensive players, and was a very questionable snub for All-Defensive team last season.
Only appearing in 43 games may hurt his chances this season, but make no mistake: he is an All-Defensive talent.
The wholesome content below can speak for itself:
Toronto Zoo, if you’re reading this, please give OG a lifetime pass.
The Raptors were 9-20 without OG Anunoby in the lineup this season, which should just about sum up exactly how crucial he is to this team on both ends.
His growth this season has been a marvel to witness. He was a positive in every facet of the game, and as he gradually took on more responsibility, he only continued to shine brighter.
In years past, Anunoby would’ve been an afterthought on the floor, only being looked to for catch-and-shoot scenarios. Now, he’s somebody that you look to put the ball in their hands whenever they are on the court. He is rounding into a complete player before our eyes, and it’s only going to continue from here. With the progress he’s made, OG will be well worth the four-year, 72 million dollar extension he inked in December.
There is no reason to doubt that Anunoby could put himself in All-Star consideration over the next year or two, and if he can stay healthy, he is even capable of becoming a Defensive Player of the Year. After all, he is still only 23 years old and in his fourth season; there is plenty of room to grow.
OG Anunoby is already one of the league’s best-kept secrets. With the trajectory he’s on, he won’t be for much longer.