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Could O.G. Anunoby Develop Into Kawhi Leonard 2.0?

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Can the former Hoosiers star have the same impact as the San Antonio Spurs’ superstar?

NCAA Basketball: Indiana at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than one month away and one of the hottest names in the NBA Draft is former Indiana Hoosiers star O.G. Anunoby.

As one of the best all around athletes in this year’s draft, Anunoby’s incredible size-adjusted athleticism makes him one of the most attractive draft prospects.

At the NBA Combine in Chicago, Anunoby showed why most NBA scouts considered him a top ten overall pick at the start of last college basketball season. While still recovering from his mid-January knee injury, Anunoby still managed to open eyes with his combine measurements.

According to DraftExpress, Anunoby additionally measured a 7’2 1/2” wingspan with an 8’ 11 1/2” standing reach, which support his projection as an elite NBA defensive stopper.

However, there are valid concerns about his limited offensive skill set. Anunoby had a career three-point shooting percentage of 36.5 percent at Indiana, but dropped from 44.8 percent as a freshman to just 31.1 percent this past season. His 55.7 percent field goal percentage was one of the Big Ten’s best, but most of his half-court shots were medium range jumpers that will not be as readily available in the NBA.

This type of draft profile is far from unique. In fact, Anunoby has modeled his game after his favorite NBA player, who happens to also be his most referenced comparison: San Antonio Spurs superstar Kawhi Leonard.

O.G. Anunoby: Kawhi Leonard 2.0?

Jonathan Tjarks (The Ringer) first wrote in November about O.G. Anunoby’s comparison to the Spurs current first team all NBA forward. Looking back on Kawaii Leonard’s profile on DraftExpress in 2011, the description really is a perfect fit.

“Despite his raw offensive game, Leonard has an excellent foundation to build on. His few bad habits are correctable and his extreme youth (he won't turn 20 until late June) and work ethic should allow him to develop his skill set and provide direction to his value in the NBA while his rebounding and hustle help him see the floor early on in some capacity. Whatever team drafts him will need to manage their expectations of what he can offer early on offensively, but Leonard's gym-rat nature and late-blooming status could accelerate his development if he lands in the right environment.” - Source: DraftExpress

Much like Leonard in 2011, Anunoby is still only 19 years old and possesses the same 7’2” wingspan. What remains to be seen, however, is if Anunoby can land on a team that has as much success as the Spurs, yet provide him valuable minutes to develop as a rookie.

Leonard was originally drafted 15th in the 2011 draft by the Indiana Pacers, but was quickly acquired by the Spurs as part of a package for George Hill. This allowed Kawhi Leonard a chance to play for a successful franchise filled with veteran leadership. The Spurs were simply looking to add complimentary pieces to an already strong nucleus.

Leonard played in 64 games in his rookie season (39 starts), averaging 7.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 1.1 assists. In his six year NBA career, Leonard increased his scoring every season, culminating in his 25.5 points per game average this past year.

This would be the ideal situation for O.G. Anunoby to fall into as a rookie, but which teams offer that opportunity?

Let’s look at the top three NBA teams who could simulate that Kawhi Leonard 2011 experience.

-New Orleans Pelicans (34-48)

Could there be a better situation joining a team that features first team All NBA 6’11” Anthony Davis and perennial All Star 6’11” DeMarcus Cousins in the front court? New Orleans started 26 year old Solomon Hill in 71 games at the small forward position, and his 7.0 points per game and 3.8 rebounds per game could easily be packaged with the 40th overall pick to move up and select O.G. Anunoby.

The Pelicans are a team on the rise, with veteran leadership, where Anunoby could serve as defensive starter that is only expected to provide ancillary scoring. His athleticism on the break would blend perfectly with young athletic guards such as Jrue Holiday and Buddy Hield.

New Orleans is a playoff team next season, and O.G. Anunoby would be a perfect fit down in the Bayou.

-Memphis Grizzlies (43-39)

If the Pelicans are the best landing spot, the Memphis Grizzlies aren’t too far behind. A team with legitimate Western Conference Finals aspirations, their key missing piece is at Anunoby’s projected position of small forward.

With Marc Gasol, Zach Randolph, and Mike Conley, the Grizzlies have plenty of scoring options. Memphis started Tony Allen in 66 games at small forward as a featured defensive stopper. Allen is 35 years old, and Anunoby could fill that defensive position as a rookie while slowly building his offensive repertoire.

Since they do not possess a pick in this year’s draft, Memphis would have to trade up to an early or mid first round pick to select Anunoby. However, Memphis remains one of the best fits for the former Hoosiers’ skill set.

-Indiana Pacers (42-40)

The Indiana Pacers are faced with a dilemma. The 2017-2018 season could mark the end of superstar Paul George’s tenure with the team. They are in the unique position of having to acquire a player that could help them immediately, while also being part of the long term future in George does decide to opt-out of his contract.

Indiana’s own O.G. Anunoby is the perfect intrastate fit.

With small forward C.J. Miles announcing he will opt-out and test free agency, the door is open for a defensive-minded athlete like Anunoby, who will not feel pressure to make an immediate offensive contribution. With the Pacers holding the 18th overall pick, this is a realistic landing spot.

Anunoby could start immediately for the Pacers who will be “all-in” on a deep Eastern Conference run in Paul George’s potential final season. With George, Jeff Teague, Miles Turner, and Thaddeus Young, the 2017-2018 Indiana roster would be comparable to San Antonio’s during Leonard’s 2011 rookie season.

Overall

O.G. Anunoby has one of the highest upsides of any player projected in the first round in this year’s NBA Draft. He has raw athleticism, a tremendous work ethic, and an incredible amount of growth potential as a 19 year old rookie. All mock drafts have him going in the early to mid first round area, which parallels Kawhi Leonard’s 15th overall selection in the 2011 draft.

If O.G. Anunoby can indeed land on a playoff team that needs an uber-athletic role player for a deep postseason run, than we could very well be looking at Kawhi Leonard 2.0.