Hallelujah, they’re finally paying attention.
After years of inexplicably being ignored by voters for the NBA’s All-Defensive team, O.G. Anunoby — one of the most effective, dogged, and versatile defenders in the league — was finally selected for the league’s All-Defensive second team.
HE DOES THIS— Toronto Raptors (@Raptors) May 9, 2023
Congrats O.G. on being named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team! pic.twitter.com/IOEgKNd29U
Anunoby started the year on a defensive tear, right from opening night, when he grabbed three steals; that set the tone for his season, where he ended up with a league-high 128 thefts and led the league in steals per game (1.91), too. He was also second in the league in deflections, and led the Raptors in defensive win shares.
Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse and Anunoby’s teammates praised him at multiple points during the season for his ability to guard all five positions, and on any given night you might see him guard Jayson Tatum, Nikola Jokic, Jalen Brunson, Luka Doncic, DeMar DeRozan... the best of the best, in other words.
Naturally, the Raptors’ season wasn’t a particularly successful one, and that took some of the shine off of Anunoby’s campaign. Had the Raptors finished in the top six in the East there’s a good chance he would’ve made the first team and even notched a few votes for Defensive Player of the Year. Alas.
Amazingly, Anunoby is only the second player in franchise history to be named to an All-Defensive team, after Kawhi Leonard, who was a second-teamer in the 2018-19 season. (I still can’t believe Fred VanVleet didn’t make the team last year.) He's also only the second Raptor to ever lead the league in one of the five major stats categories — the first since Marcus Camby led the league in blocks waaayyy back in 1997-1998. (It’s true; Camby led the league in blocks and didn’t make the All-Defensive team; a 16-66 record will do that!)
The Raptors, currently without a head coach, will likely make some changes this offseason, and Anunoby’s name will come up in trade rumours, as it often does. But I for one hope he sticks around, I’m very curious to see what a new coach and a fresh voice will do for Anunoby’s game next year. And besides, defensive players like O.G. don’t grow on trees!
We’ll have to wait and see what’s in store for the Raptors this summer, but for now — congrats O.G. on this well-deserved recognition.