OG Anunoby just bounced back from a major knee injury, the fact that he's playing at all means that he's outplaying expectations. Still, it'd be interesting to know how he's measured-up next to his first-year colleagues through the last couple of weeks.
The Toronto Raptors took OG Anunoby 23rd overall this past June. He was projected to be lottery-level talent, but his stock took a significant hit due to an ACL tear that he sustained while playing for the Indiana Hoosiers. Mike Ganter wrote that few believed Anunoby would fall to where he did. The fact that Toronto was able to pick him up was improbable, to say the least.
Part of the reason that Anunoby fell so far was the fear surrounding his recovery time. He wasn't expected to recover so quickly, and he certainly wasn't expected to be playing this early in the season. Yet, here he is, averaging just under 17 minutes of playing time per game. In that time he's been able to put up about six points, two-and-a-half rebounds, and roughly one-and-a-half assists per contest.
Now, his numbers don't look that great, but the fact that he's playing at all means that he's already outplaying the expectations placed on him. Still, though, it'd be interesting to know how Anunoby has been performing relative to other first-year players, to see where he actually stands relative to other guys in this year's rookie class.
This might be an exercise in futility given the small sample sizes, and the fact that numbers seldom tell the whole story, but I couldn't resist. Just take this information with a grain of salt as the observations elucidated here might not be relevant in the coming months.
Compared to Rookie Leaders
In terms of raw production relative to other qualifying rookies, Anunoby ranks 16th overall in scoring, 20th in rebounds, and 12th in assists according to ESPN Stats. To qualify, players have to be on pace to play at least 35 games.
His position in the middle of the pack is promising, however, it doesn't actually reveal that much. There are positional and role discrepancies in this comparison, plus a plethora of other issues, including major discrepancies in playing time.
A more fruitful comparison might be to look at Anunoby next to guys with similar draft stock. That is, players who were drafted around him, say between the 18th and 28th positions.
Compared to Rookies Drafted Between the 18th and 28th Positions
It figures that guys drafted around Anunoby's position should theoretically be of similar skill, and should theoretically provide similar value to their teams. Exploring how Anunoby has performed relative to this cohort of players might be more telling in grading Anunoby's performance through October.
Note that the selected range of analysis was mostly arbitrary. It had to be big enough to yield comparisons, but small enough to represent similar draft stock.
Now, unfortunately, a handful of guys taken between the 18th and 28th positions have yet to actually play. Harry Giles, Tyler Lydon, Anzejs Pasecniks, and Tony Bradley have not been given any run thus far.
Of the remaining players, Anunoby once again falls in the middle of the pack in terms of scoring. Kyle Kuzma, John Collins and T.J. Leaf have all averaged more points than Anunoby, and Anunoby has averaged more points than Jarrett Allen, Caleb Swanigan, and Terrance Ferguson.
He's one of the worst rebounders in this group, but this is likely a symptom of positioning as opposed to skill. All the guys in front of him are big men who make their living by grabbing boards.
Interestingly, Anunoby leads this group of players in assists, perhaps indicating some latent passing ability that the Raptors could take advantage of going forward. Zach Lowe actually made this point last week, saying that Anunoby is way ahead of the curve in terms of reading plays and making purposeful passes.
While it's nice to imagine Anunoby as a LeBron-esque point forward, it's entirely possible that the minute's discrepancy in this comparison is responsible for his apparent heightened playmaking ability.
Compared to Rookies Playing Between 14 and 20 Minutes
Gauging Anunoby relative to other rookies playing between 14 and 20 minutes per game might give us a better idea of where Anunoby stands. If two players see similar minutes, yet there's a discrepancy in production, then it follows that the discrepancy is attributable, at least in part, to skill.
Again, the selected range of minute's played had to be big enough to yield comparisons, but small enough to constitute a similar playing environment.
Two really interesting things to note here. First, Anunoby averages the third most points out of all rookies playing between 14 and 20 minutes per game, only trailing John Collins and T.J. Leaf. Second, he averages the fourth most assists out of all the rookies in this range, only trailing Miloš Teodosic, Frank Ntilikina, and Markelle Fultz.
So, what should we take away from this?
Even though Anunoby is only averaging roughly six points per game, he's been able to outscore most rookies getting a similar amount of minutes. The same can be said with assists, which is especially interesting as the only players he trails in this category are point guards who are known for their playmaking ability.
Basically, Anunoby looks like he could be one of the more talented rookies in this class, given his unique blend of size and skill. He's been able to score more efficiently than rookies getting a similar amount of minutes, and he's shown playmaking ability similar to some of the top passing guards in this class.
What to Look For Going Forward
For a guy coming back from a major knee injury, Anunoby simply being able to play this early in the season is excellent. It's only been five games, but the fact that he's been able to keep pace with several other highly-touted rookies is an added bonus.
Through October, Anunoby's passing has been the most distinctive element of his game, at least offensively. He should be able to build on this and thrive in Toronto's revamped system, especially as he gets more oriented with Toronto's sets, plus the pace and physicality of the NBA.
Toronto's next game comes against the Portland Trailblazers. Look for Anunoby to continue moving the ball and stretching the floor.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference and ESPN, unless otherwise stated.