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Swingin’ Wings: OG Anunoby starts strong for Toronto

The Raptors must replace two wing players from their championship rotation. Let’s track their progress!

Toronto Raptors wing rotation - Big Swingin’ Wings - OG Anunoby starts strong Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

Welcome to the first edition of Swingin’ Wings! The 2019-20 Toronto Raptors are not only defending their championship, they’re also replacing two starters, Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green, at key positions on the wing. Every week we’ll be tracking the progress of those possible replacements. Will OG Anunoby take his place as Leonard’s rightful heir? Will Norman Powell finally fulfill his destiny as the two-guard of the future? Will Stanley Johnson and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson find roles? Will Matt Thomas shoot 99%?!

Tune in every week to find out!

For this first column, we don’t have much a sample size to go on, at least regular-season-wise. The Raptors played (and beat) the New Orleans Pelicans on October 22, and raised a championship banner, and much fun was had by all. But we can factor in the final pre-season game as well, a victory over the Brooklyn Nets on October 18, since the main rotation played in that one.

I will note that I initially intended this column to focus mainly on OG Anunoby, Norman Powell, Stanley Johnson, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. Coach Nick Nurse, he of the “fluid” starting rotation, has already thrown a monkey-wrench in my plans, starting Fred VanVleet — a second point guard — at the two-guard spot. Can VanVleet, barely 6’ tall, be considered a wing in today’s NBA? I guess we’ll find out!

Who Did What?

As noted, VanVleet started both games at shooting guard; OG Anunoby made both starts at small forward. Norman Powell was the sixth man, and Terence Davis played off the ball as well. Rondae-Hollis Jefferson did not dress, and Stanley Johnson may already be in the doghouse — he got a DNP-CD against the Pelicans.

Wing Stat of the Week: 6.5

OG Anunoby averaged 6.5 rebounds across the two games. His scoring was just fine (18 points on Friday, 11 on Tuesday) but the boards were a nice bonus; replacing Leonard in the starting lineup, after all, isn’t just replacing his 26.6 points — it’s his 7.3 rebounds as well.

Wing Highlight of the Week

OG dunk? OG dunk!

What are the Wings Saying?

OG Anunoby, setting the bar high on what he wants to add to the team this season:

Versatility, playing all over the floor. Switching, talking stuff out on defense. And then doing everything on offense.

What’s Coach Saying?

Nick Nurse, on OG Anunoby’s play opening night:

I think you saw a little more skill level there with him. Tonight, there (were) some drives, couple moves here and there... some of them still aren’t the prettiest things in the world, but we don’t really care — we’re just trying to see if he can get it in the bucket, right?

Wing of the Week: OG Anunoby

This will be a completely arbitrary and subjective award, but it’s pretty easy to give out this week! OG Anunoby was great in the two games, and his play in the second half against the Pelicans Tuesday night — especially on the defensive end — helped the Raptors keep the game close until they could close it out in overtime. In addition to the above dunk, and a nice spin move, he drew an offensive foul on Derrick Favors in the third, blocked a Josh Hart layup in the fourth and played excellent D on Jrue Holiday on the Pelicans’ final possession.