As the Toronto Raptors return to normal, the only one who’s looked it has been OG Anunoby. Fred VanVleet and Kyle Lowry are on a bit of a cold streak shooting, Pascal Siakam had one good game followed by a stinker, and the rest of the team has been wallowing in the same slump that lost them all those games a few weeks ago (excluding Chris Boucher).
Rewind all the way back to early January where Anunoby was the sole survivor of the team’s first injury wave. During that stretch, he was averaging 18.7 points, 6.3 rebounds, and 2.6 steals, all while shooting 54% from the field and 60% from three.
During that time, it was reasonable to wonder whether or not this was a flash in the pan for Anunoby, or perhaps that one of the youngest Raptors on the squad had reached a new and improved norm.
This past week, OG has stayed the course and continued on his path to becoming a force on both ends, taking control of his own scoring opportunities and using them rather than letting the spotlight pass him by.
OG Anunoby has given the Toronto Raptors stability on offense
He’s been more aggressive shooting off of pull-ups and single dribble spot-up opportunities, scoring and stretching the opposing defense. The jump shot is the key to his being a complementary player offensively, but it’s the improved dribble-drive game that’s been the biggest improvement for him.
At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan, Anunoby has always been the ideal NBA athlete. A quick leaper with ridiculous strength, Anunoby is fast enough to stay with Damian Lillard, long enough to bother Kevin Durant, and strong enough to switch onto Joel Embiid in a pinch.
We all know about OG on defense and about OG the athlete, but what Raptors fans questioned for years was Anunoby’s attack mentality. Always a quiet man off the floor, Anunoby’s determined lack of flamboyancy may be funny, only there was a stretch there where we wondered if his calm and clear attitude off the floor was threatening to become passivity on it.
No fear! Anunoby flipped the switch in January and he’s maintained it this past week. He’s improved his handle (by far the weakest part of his game), he’s staying aggressive on the drive and looking to score, and his newfound confidence has lead to more distributing opportunities for him.
Despite his low assist averages (1.6 per game), Anunobu is actually a pretty good passer and it gets highlighted when he attacks the basket. That signature shuffle pass that he used to make to Ibaka has become easy dunks for Boucher this year (and it would be for Baynes too if the guy could make a darn layup).
OG has also fully realized how to use his ideal NBA body. At least once a night, whether he converts on the play or not, Anunoby levels some poor dope on the drive. It’s been fun to watch amid the losing.
So why is he the Raptor of the Week?
January showed us what Anunoby could be with an endless leash. There was nobody above him in the offensive pecking order, so his numbers were the best we’ve seen from him. Anunoby could have been taking control because he finally realized he could, or it could just be because there was literally no-one else there to take the ball from him.
With the full roster back in place we still have this 2.0 version of OG Anunoby. He’s back, in mind body and spirit. And as the team begins to look to the future, it’s bright knowing that the team has a 23-year-old with his level of ability.
As a rookie OG Anunoby was drawing Kawhi comparisons for his body, his defense, and his shot. Is he Kawhi? No. Will he ever be Kawhi? No. But this year is the first time since where those comparisons hold, at least, a little bit of water.