By now, you’ve probably heard the rumblings that OG Anunoby wants a bigger role on the Raptors.
Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer was the first to sound the alarm at the end of March. Fischer mentioned in his report that Anunoby hadn’t “directly expressed discontent with his situation” to the Raptors, but head coach Nick Nurse made it sound in a recent interview as though they have had conversations about his role moving forward.
The current version of Anunoby is someone every team in the league would want on their roster. Not only is he a proven 3-point shooter, but he’s one of the most versatile defenders in the league. As far as 3-and-D players go, he’s near the top.
And yet, the intrigue with Anunoby has always been that he could be so much more. Even entering his sixth season with the Raptors, it still feels like he’s scratching the surface of his potential.
Does that mean Anunoby is ready for a bigger role? Let’s take a closer look.
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How OG Anunoby’s game has evolved
Anunoby was primarily a spot-up shooter when he first entered the NBA. It’s still a big part of his game, but he has evolved into more of a creator over the last couple of seasons.
Anunoby has seen his most growth scoring in isolation and out of the post. According to InStat, he’s gone from generating a combined 1.4 percent of his offense on those plays as a rookie to almost a quarter (23.6 percent) in the 2021-22 season.
That’s quite the leap.
It contributed to Anunoby creating 119 unassisted baskets in the 2021-22 season, up from 74 in 2020-21 and 75 in 2019-20. It’s even more impressive when you consider that he played in only 48 games in 2021-22 compared to 43 in 2020-21 and 69 in 2019-20.
Where OG Anunoby still has room to grow
Just because Anunoby is scoring more in isolation and out of the post doesn’t necessarily mean he’s elite at it.
During the 2021-22 regular season, Anunoby scored at a rate of 0.61 points per isolation possession, which ranked him in the 11th percentile in efficiency. He wasn’t much better scoring out of the post, ranking in the 30th percentile with 0.84 points per possession.
For what it’s worth, Anunoby was in similar territory the season before.
Anunoby does have the tools to be a tough cover in those situations. At 6-foot-7 and 232 pounds, he has the size to put a lot of players in the weight room, and he’s gotten more comfortable using his strength to his advantage.
It’s hard to not get excited when seeing Anunoby do stuff like this:
He still doesn’t have the smoothest of handles, but Anunoby is doing things off the dribble now that he wouldn’t have even dreamed of as a rookie. It’s helped him become a much more effective driver.
Anunoby’s passing has even improved. Sure, he’s still averaging almost as many turnovers (1.1) as assists (1.4) for his career, but dimes like this show he’s on the right track:
That Anunoby is even running isolations and post-ups shows how much he has improved since entering the league. The question now is how far he can take it.
The biggest area Anunoby still has to improve is shooting off the dribble. According to NBA.com, he canned 26.7 percent of his 3-point pull-ups and 32.1 percent of his 2-point pull-ups this season. To put that into perspective, of the 242 players who attempted at least 50 pull-up jumpers, he ranked 213th in effective field goal percentage, a statistic that adjusts for 3-pointers being more valuable than 2-pointers.
Anunoby might not develop into a sniper off the dribble, but even marginal improvements would go a long way in him being a more effective and unpredictable one-on-one scorer. It would also open the door for him to run more pick-and-rolls.
MORE: What grade did Anunoby earn for 2021-22 season?
What would a bigger role for OG Anunoby even look like?
Raptors head coach Nick Nurse spelled it out quite clearly for Anunoby.
“We’re pretty, you know, if you grab a rebound, you can bring it up the floor and go make a play. If you’ve got mismatches, if you’ve got a chance to beat people, we want you to do that, and he’s talented enough to do it.”
The Raptors are unique in that they have a bunch of like-sized players who can do similar things on offense. That can lead to some skill overlap, but it also makes them difficult to match up with because at least one of them almost always has a mismatch.
While Nurse did say that he could run more plays for him, he wants Anunoby to “go take some of that,” basically empowering him to call his own number more often.
The tricky thing for Anunoby is he plays on a team that features Fred VanVleet, who earned the first All-Star selection of his career this season, Pascal Siakam, a two-time member of the All-NBA Team, and Scottie Barnes, whose role is only going to grow as he continues to develop. Unless Anunoby takes a massive leap, he’s probably going to top out as the third option at best with the way the team is currently constructed.
Anunoby did post the fourth-highest usage rate — the percentage of team plays used by a player when they’re on the court — on the Raptors this season, trailing only Siakam, VanVleet and Gary Trent Jr. Even if he surpasses Trent in usage next season, Barnes figures to get a significant boost.
Even so, Nurse did say he believes the Raptors could share the wealth a little more on offense.
“We just got to maybe distribute it a little bit more and get [Anunoby] involved a little bit more. I think we can. I think he’s good enough to do it.”