OG Anunoby: Quiety Becoming One of This Years Strongest Rookies

OG Anunoby's game won't be found on annoying Instragram videos, but that's okay. He's exceeding expectations, playing beyond rookie level, and quietly becoming a standout rookie in this class (and he wouldn't have it any other way).

In the midst of one of the most exciting rookie classes in recent NBA history - Ben Simmons, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, Jayson Tatum, Lonzo Ball, DSJ, Lauri Markkanen, John Collins - and many others (seriously, so many others. Go rehash the 2017 draft and you’ll be amazed).

As we know, OG came into this season still nursing his knee injury from College. This injury bumped him out of the lottery and into the Raptors' lap with the 23rd pick. Statistically, it looks like OG hasn’t had much of a major impact, but Raptors fans’ will attest to this: This kid is an NBA-ready player.

He has surpassed expectations, which may have already been high for Raptors insiders. His athleticism, hustle, defense, shooting and basketball IQ have all led to him solidifying a starting position on a high-seed, playoff-bound NBA team.

20-year-old OG Anunoby has quietly become an absolute stud as our starting wing, and he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Let’s look at what makes this kid such a force.

OG Anunoby - By the Numbers (So far)

We all knew OG would be a defense-first guy coming into this league, and he's lived up to that moniker. His shooting, however (especially at the start of the season), is what has taken us all by surprise (among other things).

He’s currently posting a 46/37/67 slash-line on the year, with 6.3 points and 2.3 rebounds a game. He’s attempting 5 field goals, 3.1 threes, and only 0.8 free throws a game. As a rookie three-and-D savant, that’s pretty solid.

He benefits tenfold from the drive-and-kick ability from DeMar and Kyle, who command so much attention. He moves well without the ball, and is especially decisive when it’s in his hand. It’s either a catch-and-shoot or a catch-pass-and-move. The Raptors improved ball-movement as a whole makes OG’s game come a little easier, and he’s a key contributor to this increased movement to share the rock.

OG has the 4th most played minutes on the team and is second in overall plus/minus with +232 (he trails only DeMar). Patrick Patterson was out +/- machine for the past few years, and OG looks primed to take that spot.

Out of every two-man lineup in the NBA, Toronto only has three combinations ranking in the top 35 (sorted by Net Rating):

  • 35th - DeRozan & Ibaka: 8.9 NETRTG
  • 6th - Anunoby & Lowry: 15.3 NETRTG
  • 3rd - Anunoby & DeRozan: 15.9 NETRTG

We’re sitting in early-mid January, the season is over a third of the way done and we’re approaching the halfway mark. We are beyond the “small sample size” argument. In two-man lineup rankings, the upper echelon is ridden with combinations of Golden State, Houston, and Philly (wow!) players.

The defensive-oriented, non-ball dominant Anunoby is quietly becoming a +/- force, and for good reason. Let’s look it at some examples.

A Live Look at OG

It’s fair to say that OG doesn’t have a “flashy” game. He shows off sparks of flair on breakaway slams and punches down violent tomahawks - sometimes vile enough to enrage Mike Budenholzer.

If you don’t watch him play, you won’t get much from his highlights. As I stated before, his offensive game revolves around moving without the ball and being quick and decisive when it’s in his hands. But these clips are quite telling of his impact. DeRozan and Lowry generate so much defensive gravity and so much attention with the ball (and even without it), and they consistently attract the other teams best defenders. This often leaves the weakest wing defender to matchup with OG, and they usually underestimate his ability to shoot.

Watch OG in this clip. DeMar and Poeltl run a pick and roll at the top, as Anunoby rotates across the three-point line. OG’s defender - Jeremy Lamb - basically ignores him to help on DeMar. DD makes the right play and kicks it to OG, who pulls out a pump-fake/sidestep left dribble three. That’s not a move most rookies are making at this level.

This is the decisiveness I’m talking about. If Jeremy Lamb didn’t bite on the pump-fake, OG probably would’ve just swung the ball and cut. But at this point in the game, OG was red-hot from deep, and Lamb was probably just trying to recover and run him off the three-point line.

Now this one I really like. The Raps were in the midst of dismantling the Hawks, and the ball was zipping around the perimeter. DeMar chucks it across the key to Serge, who quickly finds OG in the corner.

Marco Belinelli shows us probably the worst closeout you’ll see at the NBA level.

If this is a close game, OG is taking this three or driving, and Marco might actually make an attempt to display some effort. But Anunoby makes a heady play for the situation. He sees JV working his tail off to get interior position on Dedmon, and promptly feeds him the ball. Jonas finishes the play with quick pound-dribble/pump-fake/reverse layup.

Again, you won’t see any of this stuff on an Instagram video or on Twitter, or the front page of r/NBA. Which makes sense; they definitely aren’t highlights. But it plays like this - combined with superb defense, that has earned OG his starting spot.

His defense is absolutely solid, and he’s completely confident. I mean, in his first NBA start he was tasked to defend James Harden in Houston. We’ve seen The Beard absolutely feast on competent defenders, and make fools out of less-competent ones. But OG held his own and completed his baptism by fire with flying colours.

Another video tidbit

OG absolutely manhandling Dwight in front of the Raps bench. How many 20-year-olds can do this? Seriously!?

OG - Moving Forward

I used to get kind of irked by OG/Kawhi comparisons. Just because they’re introverted and defensive-oriented doesn’t mean they play alike.

But as the days pass, I’m slowly starting to find this to be an apt comparison.

I wouldn’t even call his game raw, as most analysts may have said coming into the league. His feel for the game and prowess on both ends of the floor are beyond rookie level and you see improvement in every single game.

There are a handful of fantastic rookies in this ridiculously deep class. When you run through them, OG often ends up being one of those - “oh yeah, and OG” - guys.

But his play is far beyond what’s expected. His abilities have even turned the heads of KD and Zach Lowe, enough for them to openly comment on it. You get the sense that NBA players respect his game from the get-go. I mean, how can you not? ... A hard-nosed, defensive machine with a solid feel for the game.

OG has quietly become one of the best rookies from this insanely qualified class, and I don’t think he’d want it any other way.


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