THE RAW NUMBERS
67 GP 16.8 ppg/5.0 rpg/2.0 apg/1.9 steals per game*/0.7 blocks per game
.476/.387/.838 for a .586 True Shooting Percentage
*denotes led league
O.G. Anunoby had a very on-brand season for the Toronto Raptors. The defensive dynamo led the NBA in steals, while finishing 20th in deflections per game - one of three Raptors in the top 20. The others being the departed Fred VanVleet (17th), and likely deep bench guy Thad Young (5th). Anunoby’s ability to guard across the positional spectrum with his unique blend of skill and speed will be even more important to the Raptors this season. Although, if new coach Darko Rajakovic’s scheme dials back on predecessor Nick Nurse’s frenetic approach, its possible Anunoby may see some of those counting stats decline.
On the offensive side, Anunoby saw a slight dip from his career highs, but still profiled nicely as a third option type in the offense, with his ability to hit catch-and-shoot three-pointers being absolutely invaluable on a team that otherwise struggled to stretch the floor. If there was one wart in his season, it was Anunoby seeing his assist-to-turnover ratio falling to an even 1 to 1. It was the worst since his second year in the league, and indicative as to why the Raptors have chosen not to cede a greater portion of initiating the offense to Anunoby - despite rumours the British-Nigerian forward would like to have more of a featured position on that side of the floor.
THE VIBES CHECK
Anyone saying they know how Anunoby is feeling is either a close family member or lying through their teeth. The Raptors forward rarely says anything in public, and if he does, there is a 90-percent chance that he’s trolling you (One of the great joys of being an Anunoby fan is watching his extremely dry sense of humour in action). Still, that’s now two off-seasons in a row in which rumours have come up that Anunoby is dissatisfied with his current role and would like a bigger one.
Is it true? Well, yes. Every player in the NBA worth his salt wants a bigger role. But is Anunoby dissatisfied? Enough to ask out this season before his contract expires? That seems doubtful because: a) Anunoby has never given off anything but a ‘pure professional’ vibe, and: b) it doesn’t really do much for him - no team, not the Raptors or someone who trades for him, can offer Anunoby an extension that can get him the sort of money league observers expect him to be able to command in Unrestricted Free Agency — assuming Anunoby turns down his player option at the end of the year.
Besides, he already got in his first great troll of the season - that doesn’t sound like a man who’s moping.
FUTURE WATCH - ON COURT
Expect more of the same from Anunoby, which means one of the truly elite ‘3-and-D’ players in the NBA — one who is routinely in the middle of all the best things that happen to Toronto on the court.
I think some modest improvement in Anunoby’s playmaking is possible, especially in a motion and ball movement system that might present more opportunities for third option types like Anunoby. O.G.’s lack of assists stem less from his ability to see the floor, and more from the fact that when he does attack one-on-one his handle isn’t quite good enough to easily beat players. That leads to Anunoby needing to use power moves that require a sort of “all-in” commitment to get to the basket.
Still, while a ‘ball-in-the-hands’ leap is possible, Anunoby will still be behind Pascal Siakam and Scottie Barnes in the pecking order, and you could make an argument that Gary Trent Jr. and Dennis Schoreder will also start significantly more plays than O.G. as well.
Basically, while this isn’t necessarily Anunoby’s peak, it’s likely close enough. That’s fine, Toronto fans still get to enjoy watching an All-Defense level wing - one of the four or five best players in the NBA at his role (and for my money, there may not be a better Nikola Jokic defender in the league).
FUTURE WATCH - OFF COURT
As previously discussed, Anunoby has a player option for next season that he will almost certainly decline. Anunoby is going to command a truck-load in free agency - especially with the cap projecting to rise. Toronto, as you may have heard, has other major players to figure out contract-wise, and potentially a limited appetite to go into the luxury tax for a team that is not a championship threat.
That makes Anunboy’s future in Toronto likely dependent on one of a few things:
- This Raptors team gels in a way nobody saw coming so that Team President, Masai Ujiri and General Manager, Bobby Webster can convince MLSE to pony up and keep the band together.
- Pascal Siakam is moved in a deal that largely contains future assets, and Anunoby is seen as a piece with the same timeline as Scottie Barnes giving Toronto the desire to outbid other suitors in free agency.
- The Raptors decide to extend Siakam - if only to ‘keep the asset’ - making a new deal for Anunoby too rich, and so Ujiri and Webster move him for a package of future assets that keeps Toronto under the luxury tax, and keeps their war-chest loaded to hunt for another star.
- The Raptors fall flat on their face and the decision is made to blow it up, throwing everything out the window but Barnes and Gradey Dick.
Anunoby is productive, will stay that way barring injury, and is likely pretty happy to be in Toronto, despite the sort of quibbles all players have over wanting a bigger chunk of the ball.
However, given the uncertain direction of the franchise, and the fact that an extension would be a horrible idea for O.G. financially, there is a very real possibility that no matter how much Toronto’s front office likes Anunoby, that he will be traded, if only to make sure he doesn’t walk for nothing.