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While there weren’t a lot of positives to take away from the Toronto Raptors 2020-2021 season, one of the few bright spots was the leap OG Anunoby made in his development. In his fourth season in the NBA, Anunoby posted career-high averages of 15.9 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.5 steals per game.
Anunoby has been known as an exceptional defensive player since day one, constantly being tasked with defending the opposing team’s best player. But this past season, Anunoby showed he’s ready to shoulder some responsibility on the offensive end, averaging 5.3 more points per game with career-high averages in minutes played, shots attempted and shots made.
Elite two-way ability
Back on January 24th, the Raptors defeated the Indiana Pacers 107-102, fueled by Anunoby’s best game of the past season. Exemplifying all he’s capable of on both ends of the floor with 30 points and five steals, Anunoby showed flashes of being one of the best two-way players in the game.
With Pascal Siakam and Kyle Lowry sitting out with injury, Anunoby took command offensively while also being extremely efficient. OG shot 56 percent from the field on 16 shots, knocking down four of his six three-point attempts and hitting eight-of-ten at the free-throw line. When Anunoby is given more responsibility, he’s shown he can carry the load on both ends of the floor, unlike anyone else on the roster.
Increased role and responsibility
At just 23-years-old, Anunoby’s potential may be greater than any player currently on the Raptors roster. Of course, Siakam has still proven more in his career than Anunoby has, but Siakam is likely to miss some time at the beginning of next season recovering from shoulder surgery in early June.
Siakam’s absence and the possible departure of Kyle Lowry in free agency this summer puts Anunoby front and center in the Raptors pecking order for the start of next season. If Anunoby is able to take another step forward in his development it would be a very welcome sight for Raptors fans, but the most important hurdle for Anunoby will be his ability to stay healthy.
Trying to stay healthy
Anunoby had some bad luck with injuries in the past, missing the entire 2019 championship run after undergoing an appendectomy. But he has also struggled to stay on the floor throughout his career and has never been able to play more than 74 games in a season. While the past season was condensed, Anunoby was still only able to play 43 of the 72 games, mostly due to a lingering calf injury.
The increased opportunity is sure to be there, but if he can’t find a way to avoid injury and be on the floor more than he has in the past four years of his career, it will be a struggle for the Raptors as a whole.
Stepping into his fifth season in the league while turning 24-years-old, Anunoby has the potential to assert himself as the best player on the Raptors roster during the 2021-2022 season. His elite defensive ability paired with his improving offensive skill set makes him the Raptors most intriguing young talent. When given the chance, he’s shown he’s ready to step up and, quite frankly, he’ll need to do that more than ever next season.