Defence never gets enough respect in the NBA.
It’s not hard to figure out why offence is so sought after in the NBA. Essentially every championship team ever has had at least one player who can go get a bucket in crunch time. It’s the kind of thing Kawhi Leonard did for the Toronto Raptors when things got bogged down offensively during their 2019 Finals run.
But there is another side of that coin. While it’s nice to have a player who can go get a bucket in one-on-one situations, it’s also pretty nice to have a player who can go out there and defend the other team’s best player on any given night.
That’s what the Raptors have in OG Anunoby. The 23-year-old isn’t some offensive maestro who can score in isolation or run the pick-and-roll like Luka Doncic, but if you stick him on the Mavericks’ superstar he might just hold Doncic to two points in 12.7 partial possessions (3:20 minutes).
So where does Anunoby rank in the top 25 players under 25 according to ESPN? He doesn’t. He’s nowhere to be found.
This isn’t to say Anunoby should be at the top of the list along with Doncic, Zion Williamson, LaMelo Ball, and Donovan Mitchell, but somewhere near the end of that top 25 seems about right for one of the NBA’s most versatile and best defensive players.
Kevin Pelton, one of the three analysts who compiled the list, had Anunoby ranked 21st on his list, flanked by Lonzo Ball at 20 and John Collins at 22, but the other two analysts, Bobby Marks and Mike Schmitz, completely left the Raptors’ lockdown defender off their lists. They both had R.J. Barrett and Lonzo Ball ahead of Anunoby.
It’s been fair to criticize Anunoby’s offensive skills to start his career, but this season he’s begun to show some serious growth off the dribble.
These are the kind of moves Anunoby didn’t have in his repertoire until very recently.
If Anunoby’s offensive game continues to develop and can come anywhere close to his defensive ability, the Raptors will certainly have one of the top prospects in the NBA.