The Toronto Raptors selected Indiana sophomore Ogugua “OG” Anunoby with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft.
Here’s what you need to know about him.
(Editor’s note: This piece is structured in three parts that starts with the cliff notes profile, then dives into a FAQ about his game, before ending on a longer essay.)
- Excellent athlete
- Ability to guard multiple positions
- Disruptive defender
- Strong base to hold position in post
- Powerful leaper in space
- Quick like a guard, long like a center (Shouts to Nik Stauskas for being big like Klay, shoots like Steph)
- Can attack closeout with a dribble move
- Can’t create his own offense
- Functional but limited dribble; mostly tries to back into the lane
- Slow, inconsistent shot (27–74 3PT, 47–90 FT)
- Suffered ACL injury in January
Lazy NBA comparison
Ceiling: Draymond Green
Realistic: Trevor Ariza
Floor: Luc Richard Mbah a Moute
What’s his elite skill?
Defensive versatility and athleticism. Anunoby is the ideal modern defender who is comfortable guarding both on the perimeter and in the paint. His 7–3 wingspan rivals that of centers (for reference: Jakob Poeltl’s wingspan is also 7–3) , while his quick feet allows him to stick with guards.
“I feel like athletic enough, strong enough, and smart enough to defend every position,” Anunoby said at his Raptors introductory press scrum.
Anunoby was frequently asked to switch on ball screens in college, so he spent plenty of time chasing around point guards. He showed great technique in sliding his feet, cutting off penetration, then using his go-go gadget arms to challenge shots.
Anunoby forces Kansas guard Frank Mason III (one of the best guards in college; №34 to SAC) and Josh Jackson (№4 to PHX) into some wild misses.
What separates Anunoby from other wing defenders is his thick lower body. His strong base allows him to body up bigs in the post. He also weighs 232 pounds and wields a 9-foot standing reach so he’s not giving up size to most power forwards and even some smallball centers.
Anunoby repeatedly stonewalls Wisconsin center Nigel Hayes (undrafted FA to NYK) in the post. The 22-year-old Hayes weighs 255 lbs and ranks among the best low-post scorers in college. Three years his junior, Anunoby concedes nothing.
Dwane Casey called Anunoby a “PJ Tucker clone”, which doesn’t sound that flattering for a first-round pick, but given how much Casey respects Tucker, one should take this as a compliment. He will be an extremely valuable defender at the pro level.
What does he need to work on?
Defense will get Anunoby into a rotation, but he needs a credible jumper to become a starting caliber player.
Anunoby only played 50 games in college (minus tournament appearances) which leaves a very limited sample to draw from. Nevertheless his shooting profile (27–74 3PT, 47–90 FT) is uninspiring. He almost exclusively tried uncontested spot-up threes and generally stayed within himself on offense.
The biggest issue with his jumper is that it’s deliberate and slow. He brings it down first before launching his motion. His mechanics are mostly fluid, but he keeps the ball in front of him and this might limit how often he can fire.
Anunoby won’t become a dead-eye shooter, but the ability to make standstill threes, and hopefully some pick-and-pop looks, will allow him to stay on the floor for important moments. Keeping the defense honest as a credible off-ball threat would be a huge development.
It will also be important for Anunoby to improve his screening — which is quite poor — to create space in the offense. This might speak to a lack of experience since he wasn’t asked to do much else besides very basic dribble hand-offs and some rudimentary post ups in college. He’s a strong finisher, has good hands, and is comfortable taking a few dribbles, which should make for an intriguing roll target.
What should I know about his injury?
Anunoby tore his ACL in January which ended both his collegiate career and Indiana’s season. This is the main reason why his draft stock dropped. Anunoby believes he would have otherwise gone top-five.
It’s unclear as to when Anunoby will be ready to return. Playing summer league is definitely out of the question, but hopefully he can recover in time for training camp. That experience for a rookie — especially someone raw like Anunoby — is invaluable. But there’s not necessarily any reason to rush. Anunoby probably won’t crack the rotation this season, barring injuries elsewhere, and will likely spend most of the year with the Raptors 905.
Anunoby met with Raptors Director of Sports Science Alex McKechnie to arrange a rehab plan earlier this week. Reports suggest that Anunoby is ahead of schedule and that he should be able to return for September or October. That would be fantastic.
What position does he play?
Anunoby is a big on offense and a wing on defense.
His offense will come off kickout passes, transition scores, putbacks and the occasional drive to the rim against a closeout. He will not be a feature player, especially not in Toronto’s system. But he should be a disruptive defender that sparks runouts with blocks and steals.
Anunoby will most likely defend wings on most nights, but he should see plenty of time switched onto other positions. Given the never-ending nightmare that is bigger wings running roughshod over the Raptors defense, expect Anunoby to play the power-three position once held by James Johnson.
A man doesn’t call himself OG without backing it up. This shit is nasty.
What role will he play next season? In 3 years?
The Raptors expressed confidence that Anunoby will crack the rotation fairly quickly, but I find that doubtful. Given the Raptors’ dire need for shooters, I see no reason why Anunoby would immediately hop ahead of DeMar DeRozan, Norman Powell, or DeMarre Carroll.
The likeliest outcome will see Anunoby down the 905 for most of the season, similar to how the Raptors treated Pascal Siakam, who was older and more polished when he was first drafted. Finding Anunoby as many reps as possible is key, especially since he played so sparingly in college. Rubbing in some seasoning from 905 coach Jerry Stackhouse is also a plus. Everyone could use some Stackhouse in their life.
Anunoby is basketball’s version of Eevee. His role in three years largely depends on how the franchise chooses to develop him. His raw tools should allow him to play either forward position, or even some smallball center if he continues to grow.
He needs to improve his handle, his passing and his outside shot to play on the perimeter. If he wants to play inside, Anunoby needs to become a better rebounder and learn to screen and move without the ball. Ideally, he could be a versatile low-usage forward who can do a bit of everything.
- He doesn’t need a nickname, but please call him Mo-G Anunoby shouts to Halal Gang.
- Anunoby’s favorite player is Kawhi Leonard, who he models his game after. Try not to get too excited (too late).
- He doesn’t say much during interviews, and his very few words are always delivered with an unflappably flat affect. His responses are unintentionally hilarious.
- He loves plain cheesecake.
- He was born in London, UK, and grew up in Missouri. His parents are Nigerian. Shouts to all the Nigerians prospering worldwide.
- His brother Chigbo Anunoby played in the NFL.
- He wears short shorts.
- This tweet...