OG Anunoby will make his return to the Toronto Raptors lineup against the Indiana Pacers on Thursday, Eric Smith of Sportsnet passes along from shootaround.
There’s no word on if Anunoby will return to the starting lineup, but it stands to reason he will. He hasn’t come off the bench since running with the starting role earlier in the season, Victor Oladipo is a matchup that requires an Anunoby-like defender, and Norman Powell, who was starting in Anunoby’s place, is listed as doubtful. In fact, Powell is in a walking boot, per Mike Ganter of the Toronto Sun, so it’s probably safe to rule him out.
Anunoby has been sidelined since suffering a right ankle sprain and bone bruise on Feb. 28. He was in a boot for a few days but quickly progressed to non-impact cardio activities, though the Raptors have sparingly practiced at home of late, so updates were scarce. In all, Anunoby missed seven games – all Raptors wins – and while that skewed toward the longer end for an ankle sprain, it probably wasn’t the worst thing to get a rookie who’d played in all 60 games to that point a little mid-season breather. Here, he’ll return with 15 games to get back up to speed and rediscover a rhythm heading into the postseason.
While the Raptors went undefeated with Anunoby out, his presence was still felt. Don’t take a 7-0 run as a sign Anunoby is not important. In reality, his absence provided further evidence that even when cold offensively, he’s a driver of the starting lineup’s success – they own a plus-12.6 net rating in 655 minutes with Anunoby as their fifth, a minus-4.5 in 259 minutes with Powell as their fifth, and a minus-0.2 in 37 minutes with Malcolm Miller in that spot, per PBPStats.com (these numbers differ slightly from NBA.com, with the same takeaway). They’ve also been really good with Fred VanVleet, but who hasn’t been? In 60 games prior to the injury, Anunoby was averaging 5.9 points and 2.4 rebounds while shooting 45.3 percent from the floor and 35.3 percent on threes with the third-best net rating among rotation regulars at plus-11.5.