It was not the most pressing question for the Raptors in advance of the 2020-21 season, but the matter has now been reportedly settled: OG Anunoby is set to return to Toronto next year on a 4-year, $72 million contract extension (with a player option in the last year). This announcement comes before the season — and before Anunoby would have entered restricted free agency in the summer of 2021.
Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby has agreed to a four-year, $72 million extension, including a player-option for the 2024-2025 season, @KlutchSports Head of Basketball Omar Wilkes tells ESPN.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) December 21, 2020
The 23-year-old forward, listed at 6’7” and 232 pounds, has been with the Raptors for the past three seasons after being selected 23rd overall in the 2017 NBA Draft by Toronto. Since then, Anunoby’s abilities have gradually grown. As a rookie in 2017-18, Anunoby assumed the starting small forward position for the Raptors, flashing an opportunistic offensive skill-set, sizable defensive potential, and a preternatural unflappability (which was also hilarious). His sophomore year, however, was mostly lost — OG took a backseat to Kawhi, dealt with injury and personal tragedy, and then sat out the entire 2019 championship run due to an appendectomy. Fortunately for both team and player, his 2019-20 year was something of a comeback.
Last year, Anunoby appeared in 69 out of 72 regular season games for Toronto, posting career highs in every single major statistical category — minutes, points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks, shot attempts, and shooting percentages across the spectrum. At the same time, OG fully became the defensive monster the Raptors were hoping for when they selected him three years ago. At times last season, it was not uncommon to see Anunoby chase a guard on the perimeter and then switch onto a big man before making a defensive play at the rim. In the 2020 Bubble Playoffs, this ability gave the Raptors the chance to play small-ball with OG effectively manning the centre position. It was quite a sight.
The term of OG’s extension takes him through to 2023-24 with, as noted, a player option in the fourth year. The value of the deal, representing a massive increase over his rookie-scale contract, answers a tricky question for the Raptors — one that was made easier as soon-to-be big name free agents (like Giannis) came off the board. To be clear, there was never any doubt the Raptors saw OG as part of their future. At just 23 years old, still improving, and with a skill base very much in demand, it always made sense to retain him along with Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as the core of the team. The question was whether to lock OG into a deal now — thus eating into cap space for the coming 2021 free agency bonanza — or let him play out the year, during which he could improve his value even further.
In a sense, that decision was made for the Raptors. With fewer reasons to hold onto gobs of cap space, retaining Anunoby as a cost-controlled asset — a player whose floor is “super elite 3-and-D wing” — made all the sense in the world. Now if he does have the breakout in 2020-21 that most of us are hoping for, the contract is a steal. And if Anunoby doesn’t, well, the Raptors still have a solid player, a young talent who complements the other key pieces on the roster.