Shortly after the Raptors selected Indiana’s OG Anunoby with the 23rd pick, delighting Raptors fans and sexy bloggers everywhere, Toronto’s head coach Dwane Casey emerged from the war room to discuss his newest player.
Coming into the draft, Anunoby was slotted anywhere between 10 and 30 in mock drafts due to his murky injury situation — he tore his ACL in January. Casey seemed pleased that he was available when the Raptors’ turn came up.
“He’s a big time talent,” said Casey. “Probably if it wasn’t for his injury he would have went higher. He’s a guy that our scouts targeted ... Luckily he fell to us. There was a lot of teams behind us that were salivating to get him and we were lucky that he fell to us at 23.”
In an unsurprising turn of events, Casey spoke glowingly of Anunoby’s defensive skill and potential.
“He’s one of those guys that you don’t have to say ‘giddy up’ to. He’s ready to go right from the start.” said Casey.
“He can guard one through five, easily,” the coach said. “He’s a P.J. Tucker clone, practically. That something that gives us some toughness and ability to switch things defensively, the way the league is going.”
On the other end of the floor is where the questions creep into Anunoby’s on-court effectiveness. Aside from some thunderous jams, he doesn’t have much in the way of playmaking or shot creation in his repertoire right now. As a spot up option, his shot is tricky to project to the NBA. Casey said seems to think Anunoby has the drive and ability to refine his stroke.
“His shot’s not broken,” said Casey. Just like a lot of young players, just needs repetition to get in the gym and work on it. That’s something he can do now as he’s going through his rehab, he’s working on his shot mechanics and his release. It’s there.
“The thing you can’t teach in that situation is the motor, the toughness and the physicality, the size at that position. The shot is something that a lot of young players have to work on anyway. We have all the confidence in the world cause he’s a worker.”
Perhaps of greater concern than Anunoby’s fledgling offensive game is his recovery from that ACL tear; a process that was shrouded in mystery in the lead up to the draft. On an episode of The Basketball Analogy on Wednesday, ESPN’s Chad Ford mentioned that there were some concerns around the league about how well Anunoby’s knee was progressing. Casey addressed Anunoby’s timeline in his press conference.
“They (the team’s doctors) told us he’s ahead of schedule,” Casey said. “What date that is I don’t know but we’re going to get his program ready to go right from when he leaves the press conference here tomorrow ... We don’t wanna rush it and bring him back too soon, but we’re confident, Alex (McKechnie) is confident that we can get him going pretty soon.”
You’ll never hear a coach denigrate a freshly-drafted player on draft night, obviously. But this is a night for hope, anyway.