OG Anunoby: A Trade Without a Cause

I like trade talk as much as the next guy but once in a while a rumour comes along that makes you wonder whether there’s a lead poisoning issue with the water supply. Case in point, the idea that it may be good idea for the Raptors to swap OG Anunoby for the 7th pick in the draft.

I was going to publish this piece before the draft but decided I’d let the moment pass so we can see with more clarity how silly of an idea this was to begin with.

Let’s break this reasoning down from a few perspectives.

The 7th pick would have turned the Raptors into a contender sooner

This point of view assumes that the player you’d get at #7 will be better than OG Anunoby. As an “apples to apples” comparison, let’s check out the 7th picks in the last decade.

Other than Jamal Murray, can you find a player better than OG on that list? Given this data, that’s a 10% chance of picking someone better than OG. Just better, not even saying they’ll be the difference between playoff team to a contender. Just better.

I know what you’re thinking. “Hey Arse, you’re cherrypicking data”. No I’m not, let me go back 10 more years for a total of 20.

You could argue a Luol Deng or Nene point with me but by the time OG’s career is over, I think it’ll be better than both. Even if it’s not, it’s hard to argue that the delta between OG and those two is the missing sauce in a contender.

I’d say the only guy clear-cut above OG is Steph Curry, which still leaves us at 10% odds over the last 20 years. “But Arse, you have to look at every single draft’s 7th pick and BEYOND to truly compare apples to apples”. No, I don’t. When you make hypothetical claims that doing X will be better than Y where both X and Y are unknown, then you forfeit the right to expand the scope of X unless you allow me to expand the scope of Y.

For example, to suggest that we compare what the Raptors can accomplish with OG to what the Raptors could accomplish with an idealized #7-whatever pick, you would have to allow me to also put forth the worst possible #7-whatever pick as a counter-argument. That’s why we go with historical averages as we’ve done above (i.e., the 10% success rate).

The Raptors are rebuilding and replacing OG with the #7 pick better aligns with the rebuild

If we’re talking about pairing someone with Scottie Barnes (20), OG at 24 is a perfectly fine fit, and we don’t need to get younger. Parker/Duncan and Shaq/Kobe had a six year age difference. Jordan/Pippen, Giannis/Middleton were three years apart. Curry/Thompson, Stockton/Malone had two year differences. I’m not suggesting the Raptors combo is comparable to the greatness those duos achieved, but if we’re talking about nucleus building, then age is hardly a factor.

Is a four year difference truly something that can’t be tolerated in a core? I don’t think so. In fact, you can find plenty of examples of cores who where the age difference was less than four but didn’t achieve anything great (e.g., Lillard/McCollum, Beal/Wall). My point is that though age ranges are important, it’s not a factor in this instance.

Let’s assume the Raptors are in a rebuild (they’re not). Looking at the draft board, the average birth year for the draft this year appears to be 2002, which makes the players 20 years old. OG is 24 years old. It would be a weird argument to suggest that swapping a 24 year old with a 20 year old is more attuned to a rebuild when the 24 year old is still 3-4 years away from hitting their peak. This argument would hold more water if the suggestion was to trade Pascal Siakam or Fred VanVleet (both 28), but not OG – the second youngest of the current core four.

OG isn’t a great basketball fit and clashes with Barnes

It is hasty to reach such a strong conclusion based on a single season’s play. These inputs to these dramatic franchise-altering decisions need more time to bake in the oven. The Barnes-OG lineups have been worse than others but they’re still net positive. It’s not like this is a DeMar/Kyle situation where we have years of accumulated regular season and playoff data to conclude that we must try something new. This is year one.

There’s also a fallacy in the argument of Barnes being a potential superstar and needing better partners. If not from OG’s perspective, it seems incredibly harsh to deem Barnes as unfit to play with OG. If you do believe in Barnes, don’t you owe it to trust him to figure out how to play with OG (if this was an issue, which it’s not)? How can you hold the following two positions simultaneously: 1) Barnes is a potentially generational player, 2) Barnes can’t play with a high quality NBA starter like OG.

OG gets injured too much, sell high

His GP record is not great: 74, 67, 69, 43 and this last season, 48. On the surface this looks bleak, but let’s look at his injuries:

– appendicitis
– finger fracture
– hip pointer (a bruise)
– eye injury
– calf strain

None of these are lingering or chronic issues that warrant concern. He has legitimately had a string of bad luck with injuries, and has bounced back each time. This is a credit to him and yet he seems to be penalized in the court of public opinion for his recoverability form injury.

The view I take of this is that he has shown progression and consistency despite injury, not that he hasn’t due to it. His statistics bear this out.

I could comfortably argue that OG has to exert himself defensively more than most Raptors. Their style of play where OG often finds himself defending 5s in undersized lineups, quick point guards on the perimeter, and everything in between, increases his exposure to injury.

It would be an interesting exercise to see a stat which showed something like “probability of injury given style of play”, and I’d suggest that OG might be on the higher end of that probability, but on the lower end of the actuality. But I offer no such proof, and only hypothesize based on the eye.

Sports media, much like media everywhere, is in a weird place. Publishers no matter how reputable are incentivized to increase engagement with less and less regard for reliability. Gambling has amplified this behaviour by injecting money into the equation. This is starting to feel like a European football media scene where most rumours should be ignored without a second thought. This was one of them.

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