Moments before the draft, a tweet from Michael Grange came in reporting that the Toronto Raptors were looking to move Jonas Valanciunas and their 23rd round pick. With each pick that went by, Raptors fans were waiting for the Woj bomb to drop confirming that a trade has happened. 45 minutes into the draft there was already a block buster trade with Jimmy Butler and Chicago Bulls' 16th pick moving to the Minnesota Timberwolves for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the number 7 pick. A few more trades trickled in and fans were already starting to say their good-byes to JV. By the 18th pick fans started to get restless knowing that if a trade were to happen, it would happen now. 21st pick goes, 22nd pick goes and still nothing.
“And with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft, the Toronto Raptors select OG Anunoby.”
This was followed by, “PROPOSED TRADE: RIGHTS TO DENVER” written in parenthesis beside his name. At this point fans were yelling at their TV “FOR WHAT?!”
With no Woj tweet to accompany the statement, you knew this was inaccurate and that ESPN meant to put it for the following pick, Tyler Lyndon. Fans all over Canada let out a sigh knowing that our lethal Lithuanian was safe….for now.
So with all that drama out of the way, who is OG Anunoby?
Let’s start with the basics.
One thing about OG is that he is coming off an ACL injury (requiring surgery) that happened in January. It was a season ending injury and so Raptors are going off the 16 games he was able to play in the 2016-2017 season. A lot of people do believe that the Raptors are gambling with OG but they do realize we’re talking about Masai here right? The guy that picked up the kid who was two year away…from being two years?
So why OG?
First off, OG fills the small forward/power forward spot which is a position that the Raptors are lacking in. With Patrick Patterson and PJ Tucker becoming free agents this off-season, picking up OG made sense from a roster point of view.
Next, OG has been known for his defense and his ability to guard all 5 positions, which again the Raptors are in desperate need of. Steven Loung of Sportsnet had described him as “PJ Tucker’s clone” which is music to my ears! Draft Express describes him as having all the tools to be an elite defender at the NBA level because of his size, length, strength and mobility. His agility allows him to keep up with point guards and his almost 7’3' wing span contest their shots. In guarding other positions, he has been described as having “excellent lateral quickness” so in combination with his size and strength, he is able to be aggressive on the glass.
Offensively, don’t expect too much out of him. Though he did average 11.1 points, shot 70.1% from the field and 31.1% from the three in his sophomore year, there’s a lot that he will need to work on to compete at the NBA level. Draft Express has him as a solid “spot-up shooter, straight line driver and a rim-runner in transition” which the Raptors already have in guys like Norman Powell and DeMar DeRozan. He also lacks ball handling skills which makes isolations and PNR (pick and roll) challenging. This can be troublesome considering the Raptors love their isolation basketball and already struggle with the PNR with the guys they already do have…(shout out to you JV).
Lastly, one thing that worries me as a fan are the observations from various scouts about his varying levels of focus and intensity during different points of a game. He’s been described as "being slow to react at both ends of the court and lack toughness". Again, these are just observations so let’s hope that being surrounded by the NBA atmosphere will reveal his true work ethic - allowing his game to do the talking.
With all the information out there about OG, he seems to be a good fit for the team because he fills some holes in this Raptors boat. Though he could be a complete bust, the draft is just the first wave of moves that the Raptors will make. It’s not even July 1st yet and fans can’t keep up with all the trade rumors that have been circulating. With this move by Masai and his team, fans continue to trust that he will stay true to his word. Fans have yet to have reason to waiver and so (for now) we shall continue to say “in Masai I trust…”.