Norman Powell sustained a hip injury while trying to slide around Aron Baynes in last Sunday's loss to the Boston Celtics. He left the game on crutches after playing only seven minutes. He's been out all week and he could be out for a while longer, anywhere from two to four weeks according to Blake Murphy.
The loss of Norman Powell came at a difficult time for Toronto. They'd gotten off to a rocky start this season, their loss to the Celtics making their overall record seven and five. They were also in the midst of a three-game road trip that happened to feature back-to-back games against the Houston Rockets and the New Orleans Pelicans.
It's always difficult when a player goes down, especially a guy like Powell, who provided Toronto with offensive and defensive contributions in bunches. He'd be sorely missed in games to come... or so people thought.
Fortunately for the Toronto Raptors, OG Anunoby has been able to match Powell's expected contribution perfectly. Powell was averaging roughly eight points per game on 40 percent shooting and roughly 31 percent from deep. Through Anunoby's four starts for Toronto, all of which resulted in W's by the way, he's averaged just under 10 points per game on 58 percent shooting and roughly 38 percent from deep.
OG has helped space the offence, showing off a reliable pseudo-set shot from the corners. He has also wreaked havoc defensively, moving his feet, playing physical defence, and contesting anything within his reach, which is a lot in Anunoby's case.
Generally speaking, OG has made playing basketball easier for his teammates, and much more difficult for the competition.
OG's best performance as a starter was ironically his first, against James Harden and the Houston Rockets. He submitted the best offensive performance of his young career, dropping 16 points with ridiculous efficiency. He thrived from the corners this game, knocking down three of four shots from deep.
And while the box score doesn't show it, Anunoby did a stellar job defending Harden. Even though he was sometimes a step slow on defence, his length and his seven-foot-two wingspan let him bother and contest Harden anyways. So much so that, according to Arden Zwelling, Anunoby held Harden to only two-of-15 field goals in the 23 minutes that he defended him. All other Raptors let Harden make six-of-10 from the floor.
Much of the same happened against the New York Knicks as well. Anunoby contributed 11 points, played technically sound defence, and ended the game with the highest plus-minus of any Raptor.
He struggled offensively in Toronto's most recent game against the Washington Wizards sans John Wall, although he did play consistently good defence. Again, he moved his feet and fought through screens, contested shots, and he also frequently attempted to deny passes to Bradley Beal, often successfully.
During this stretch, OG has flashed a highly versatile skillset that's meshed perfectly with the other starters. He's been able to camp in the corner and draw his defender out of the paint, providing room for Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan to operate inside. If his defender moved off of him, he has been able to make them pay. His defensive ability has also become all the more apparent as he's guarded a variety of talented offensive players. In a way, Anunoby's skill and defensive versatility have helped make up for Toronto's defensive shortcomings. He's fought through screens, helped guys on switches, and has made perfect defensive rotations, which goes a long way with respect to team defence.
With Norman Powell likely out for at least another week or so, Anunoby should have more opportunities to prove himself as a starter. It's tough to know for certain who will get the nod once Powell gets healthy, although OG is making quite the case for himself.
Toronto's next game comes against the New York Knicks on November 22nd.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference or NBA.com, unless otherwise stated.