So, the NBA Draft has come and gone. Your favorite team, the Toronto Raptors, drafted former Indiana forward OG Anunoby with the 23rd overall pick. There are plenty of question marks surrounding Anunoby, which was made evident as he slid a bit down the draft board. But he also brings a lot of promise, which is as much as you can hope for in the 23rd spot. So, what kind of value did Toronto get?
Anunoby spent two up-and-down years at Indiana. He should have been one of the better players in the conference, but circumstances and injuries never let fans see exactly what he could do.
As a freshman in 2015-16, the 6-foot-8 forward was a relatively little-used player that averaged 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game on a Big Ten champion Indiana team. However, fans and analysts alike saw enough from Anunoby that they pegged him as the next big thing for the Hoosiers and one of the best players in the Big Ten heading into 2016-17.
Anunoby showed some of that promise as a sophomore, but never really looked comfortable as a go-to guy in the 16 games before he went down with a season-ending knee injury. The Jefferson City, Missouri native averaged 11.1 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals per game while shooting 31.1 percent from behind the arc.
Despite the knee injury, Anunoby’s frame and athleticism had him feeling comfortable enough to hire an agent and enter his name in the NBA Draft in early April. Opinions have been varied on Anunoby since he declared, with most projections having him in the second half of the first round.
What he brings to the table
Defense. Length. Athleticism.
It’s hard to say how Anunoby’s offensive game will develop, but as long as his athleticism returns after the injury, he should be able to defend. At 6-foot-8, athletic and well-built, Anunoby has the ability to defend a number of positions in the NBA.
Not every team has the patience to put a young player on the floor who can only excel at one end. But if Anunoby can defend well enough, he should be able to find some playing time and put himself in position to develop a role offensively.
Will he ever be a high-level scorer? Who knows, but he hasn’t really shown it yet. At Indiana, much of Anunoby’s offensive output came on fastbreaks, off-ball cuts and offensive rebounds.
There is still room for that in the NBA, an athletic wing who can run the court and fill lanes when his teammates create space. But if you’re asking him to beat somebody one-on-one, Anunoby doesn’t possess that skill set at this time. He doesn’t move particularly fluidly or have the ball-handling skills to beat somebody off the dribble.
However, given time, there’s no reason Anunoby can’t grow into a solid offensive player. He’ll be drafted at 19 years old, with his birthday coming up in mid-July, so there’s plenty of room to grow once he gets into an NBA-level program.
Pick Grade: B+
Anunoby’s draft outcome was all about value. As a raw player coming off an injury, a top-10 selection would be considered a reach, while falling below 20 would be a steal. The Raptors stumbled into that steal and snatched him up at a great spot. A player with Anunoby’s upside is as good as you’re going to get with the 23rd pick.
Now that he’s drafted, it’s about fit. Anunoby will likely miss a good portion of his rookie season while he continues to recover from surgery. Then he’ll need to play his way back and continue to round out his game.
Does Toronto have the patience to wait on him to develop? It’s hard to say at this point. They’re a team that’s in a bit of flux, with rumors earlier this week surrounding the departure of point guard Kyle Lowry. If Anunoby was slotted in the Raptors lineup this past season, he would have at least been another body they could have thrown out Giannis Antetokounmpo and LeBron James in the playoffs.
In the end, whether he develops into a legitimate offensive threat or not, Anunoby should have the ability to contribute in the NBA. In a wing-heavy league, teams need someone who can defend multiple positions and contest on the perimeter. Anunoby can do that. The rest remains to be seen.