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Two Things I Don’t Like About the O.G. Anunoby Trade Rumours

This week on Five Things, I dedicate my time to looking at the O.G. Anunoby trade rumours and why it's a plain ol' bad idea for everyone involved.

PRELUDE

Goddamnit.

I really hope O.G. is okay after that fall last night. He’s a fearless driver and risky, awkward falls always loom as a result. Surprised they don’t happen more often to more players.

And, not like I’m the Sports Illustrated curse or anything, but c’mon, O.G., I just spent three days writing about how special you are and how careful you should be and you go and do a goshdarn thing like that!

He’s fine, he’s gonna be fine, everything’s fine.

INTRODUCTION

I wouldn’t wish this on my worst sports fan enemy. Mayyyyybe 76ers fans, maybe.

The torturous chaos of your favourite players dangling afore 29 ravenous other fanbases and teams. Your whole team the lynchpin of the NBA’s Trade Deadline domino stack. Horrible way to start each day.

All the conjecture and speculation and nosiness. Fake trades. Proffered Multiverses. Tankers and Double Downers. Having to fend off fans like I’m PETA castigating gluttonous customers handpicking the biggest lobster in the tank at their favourite restaurant.

It’s tiring. Especially, when it’s all said and done, all I want is what’s best for these guys. Freddy, Gary, O.G., want to get paid? Go get it, baby!

More shots? More play designs? Do it. Do it all.

Just, like, within reason, k?

The O.G. Anunoby thing, though, is a different beast. It’s coming at all angles and from many sources. Enough to substantiate some kind of ruffling between Toronto, O.G., and his representatives. Teams want him badly too. Lot of smoke. Probably, fire.

Yet, to O.G. and to fans ready to ship him. I caution against such desires.

Let’s roll.

1. Setting O.G. Rumours Straight: A Caution to O.G.

If it’s too painful to read on, I empathize.

If all this back-and-forth conjecture makes you carsick and you need to put your head in a hole and wait for a text for when the trade deadline is over, DM me your digits, I got you.

For the rest of us, who carry great consternation over these O.G. rumours, among many others, we must venture forth. We must reason with the eager self-immolators and console the confused. Remind them all of what THE HELL WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HERE.

Honestly, I feel like Steven Adams trying to fend off tankers and wankers. AGAIN.

Before I go lovely, handsome Kiwi enforcer on your asses, though, here’s the scoop.

Since the offseason, murmurs from certain legitimate sources have suggested that O.G. was discontented with his current role on the team and that teams were salivating over his potential availability.

O.G. dismissed these rumblings himself. The other stuff also easily ignored with a, “Ya, every team should be drooling over their tablets for this dude.”

Come the season, gossip settled. The Raptors were winning, O.G. was playing like an NBA Defensive Player of the Year and all was well.

Until it wasn’t.

Now, Toronto’s 22-28. Their defence stinks. And, most profoundly, their identity and team structure is in question. (At least, media and fans and other teams, perhaps, are calling it into question. For all we know Toronto management is perfectly content rolling with this see-sawing season.)

(This is awesome):

And with all the tumult, back came the rumours.

November 2022 Sometime: On January 26, Ian Begley of SNY, stated in a mailbag that prior to New York’s 8-game winning stream in December, they checked in on O.G. Anunoby,

“In their conversation about Anunoby prior to the winning streak, New York was comfortable offering multiple first-round picks for Anunoby. I don’t think these talks were at an advanced stage at that point.”

November 29, 2022: On his podcast, Zach Lowe, in talking Raptors with The Athletic’s Eric Koreen, asserted,

“The entire league wants O.G. Anunoby. Everybody wants O.G. Anunoby. If he ever gets traded, the price and picks are going to surprise people because it might be on par almost with what the Cavs gave up for Donovan Mitchell. It’s going to be a lot if it ever happens.”

January 4, 2023: Michael Grange of Sportsnet wrote that one league insider estimated O.G. Anunoby’s value at “a shitload” in both picks and young talent.

January 23, 2023: Bruce Arthur of The Star reported,

“At least one team has previously offered three first-round picks for Anunoby.”

Probably, the Knicks.

January 24, 2023: Bob McCown on The Bob McCown Podcast confirms that, according to “a guy [he’s] known for several years”, O.G., “wants out of Toronto” and “he wants to be traded”.

Old white dude in basement or not, Bob is renown – Bob Renown McCown – in Toronto media circles and would not irresponsibly throw shit at a wall just to see something stick.

January 26, 2023: On the JD Bunkis Podcast, on Thursday, our old friend Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports spoke to JD about the O.G. situation and his general disgruntlement with the team, saying the following interesting notes:

“The only friction that continues to be whispered about and discussed is O.G. Anunoby potentially wanting a bigger role.”

“His representation was certainly sniffing around the League back at the combine and all throughout the offseason trying to see what people would be willing to trade to get O.G. into a different situation.”

“It just seems like…when I watched them at the [Madison Square] Garden…seemed like there was a bit of shot-hunting going on…I remember at the end of the second quarter Gary was wide open in the left corner and he [O.G.] looked Gary off and did some head fake and side step around the defender and chucked some three…that type of stuff is the only real discontent…”

“I’ve definitely been told to look at New Orleans…”

“I think the interest is real…the Indiana Pacers are definitely interested in O.G.”

“He’s one of Masai’s favourites…I know for a fact that Masai was telling people at the [G-League] Showcase that they’re not trading O.G…but maybe that was a negotiating tactic.”

“I think there will be a pretty aggressive market for him just because he is so valued around the league and I do think there will be teams willing to meet that price…”

So, what we have from multiple sources is:

  1. O.G. is worth a lot on the market.
  2. Teams are willing, and have offered, to pay a lot for O.G.
  3. O.G. has and continues to suggest he’s not stoked with his current situation
  4. Toronto has not shown any indication that they’re willing to trade O.G.

What’s also interesting to me, is Fischer’s tidbit on O.G.’s representation sniffing around in the offseason.

O.G. is a Klutch Sports client.

And, as we know, Klutch has a habit of getting dudes out of situations they don’t particularly love regardless of contracts, time of the year, team record, will of team management, etc. What we’re hearing could be either O.G.’s restlessness, Klutch‘s chest thumping or both. If it’s the latter, we all know how that road can travel.

I’m not against the angsty player unhappy with playing time or contract situations. In fact, power dynamics in this sport are shite. I don’t mind push back. I especially don’t hate anything that has to do with whatever players have to do to get paid and to protect their brains, bodies, and career.

I will say, though, that I am less confident in Klutch’s ability to ensure those objectives.

Their motus operandi, in many cases, has been to play extreme hardball. More so than most any other agent or player situation (with some exceptions). LeBron’s scorched earth policy in Cleveland twice and Los Angeles is one example (Pat Riley probably saved Miami from the same demise). Anthony Davis’ fraught final days in New Orleans was go ol’ High Noon situation – and, arguably, sealed the Lakers’ fate for a decade. Ben Simmons got called on his initial bluff and things have gone horrendously since, poor cat.

And then there was the ill-fated Nerlens Noel saga. Noel was the sixth overall pick for the The Process Philadelphia 76ers in 2013. He had torn his ACL in college making him an ideal draft and store guy for a team wanting to hardcore tank. Noel debuted his sophomore season and from the start it was clear he was a defense-first, rim-running big with little upside.

In 2017, he was traded to Dallas. Noel was up for a new contract and Philly didn’t want to pay him. Dallas offered him a $70 million contract extension and Noel turned it down, accepting a qualifying offer at one-year/$4.1 million instead.

Dallas’ offer was made when Noel was with a previous agent. However, in the lawsuit, Noel claims that Klutch Sports owner, Rich Paul, recruited Noel and told him, according to the lawsuit,

“That if he terminated his relationship with Mr. Walters [his previous agent] and signed with him instead, Paul would get him that ‘max deal.’ As part of this, Paul advised Noel that he should cease negotiations with Dallas, accept the single year qualifying offer, and seek a max deal on the free agent market the following season,”

Noel never got the maximum he was promised. He has earned an approximate total of $33 million – or, the equivalent of two years of that contract offer – since the offer from Dallas.

Back to O.G..

O.G. is not Nerlens Noel. Obviously. Unfortunately, for Noel, he was also another victim in a long line of player types devalued – and, in some cases, extinguished – by the very abrupt and immediate transformation of the NBA.

O.G., on the other hand, is quite possibly the exact 3D printing of a ChatGPT command “build a perfect 3+D 2023 NBA player with room for improvement”.

So, there’s that. But. There’s also plenty of evidence to suggest that A. Klutch does not always optimize a player’s future and B. They have over-estimated, and allegedly misled, players’ opportunities.

I have no idea what O.G.’s representatives say to him, if anything. Klutch has also done well for a lot of its clients too (Tristan Thompson and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope probably have good things to say). This all might be BS too. It all might be instigated by O.G. Or, it could be a big ol’ undefinable mulch of it all. Regardless, O.G. need be careful.

I get that O.G. is on a sweetheart contract. He’s also, perhaps unfairly so, the 4th-6th option on a losing team. He deserves more. More money. More usage. And more attention. Fair enough.

He just doesn’t deserve allll that much more usage. At least, not yet.

Were O.G. to go to Oklahoma City, for example, and become the third guy alongside Josh Giddey and SGA, what then? Do we think he’s going to become the Third Star Sam Presti idealizes? What if he goes to Memphis as the 4th option? Well, that’s, essentially, what he is now, but with a greater expectation to be the 3rd B option on a team expecting to go to the Finals right now. Can he be that?

He has not demonstrated, in my mind at least, in any consistent way, signs of another leap. In fact, due to exhaustion or waning confidence or injury or something else altogether, it seems O.G. has regressed. And I say all this, as probably one of the biggest O.G. stalwarts around – other than @_emmajbrown.

His three-point shooting has dipped; his drives are back to being discombobulated; his hands and balance have worsened; his post-ups have all but disappeared; and he’s committed a career high in turnovers despite a usage percentage similar to the last two years.

Teams may pay him. Toronto, I believe, would and should pay him. But, in the long game, it could hurt his overall value to go to another team and, potentially, fail expectations. If he is burdened with more and exposed by producing much less, O.G.’s life could be a Hell of a lot worse. To the point of jeopardizing the 3rd coveted contract – in a worst case scenario.

This is also just speculation. I, for one, have very high hopes. I just think O.G. should be cautious in his aspirations.

Money isn’t always greener on the other side.

2. Setting O.G. Rumours Straight: A Caution to Raptors Fans

I’m not going to meticulously argue for O.G. to stay in Toronto. Now’s not the time to dig up every piece of evidence proving O.G.’s immense value. That would require a much bigger article. One of which, I’m sure, and I hope, will come.

I will argue, however, that O.G. is borderline invaluable. To the Raptors, more so than most other teams, but nearly as so to the League at-large.

Here’s a thought exercise. Divide teams into two columns (forget the drat, though you could argue the drat should be interested in O.G. too): Playoff Contenders and On the Brink of Relevance.

Playoff Contenders:

  • Atlanta
  • Boston
  • Brooklyn
  • Cleveland
  • Dallas
  • Denver
  • Golden State
  • LAL
  • LAC
  • Memphis
  • Miami
  • Milwaukee
  • New Orleans
  • NYK
  • Philly
  • PHX
  • Portland
  • Sac Town

On the Brink of Relevance:

  • Minny
  • OKC
  • Orlando

You can bicker with the categories, it doesn’t really matter.

The point is. Of those two groups, name a team where O.G. A. Isn’t exactly what the team is missing and/or B. Would not start.

The answer to A is maybeee the Celtics, Clippers, and Pelicans – as in they have more pressing needs. Maybe. The answer to B is none.

Add to that…

O.G.’s age: 25

O.G.’s contract value: $18 million/4 years (the average NBA contract is $7.1 million per year)

O.G.’s contract length: Player Option 2024/25

O.G.’s skillset: A foundational ability to shoot, defend all five positions, and, occasionally, attack lesser dudes and gaps.

…and you, quite possibly, have, pound-for-pound, one of the most valuable players in the league. Not the best player. Not by a wide margin. But one of the most ideal.

What makes O.G. so valuable, on top of everything I just outlined, is his versatility. Name the scheme, name the roster, name the role, and O.G. fits seamlessly. One can say that about most any Superstar. Not all.

One cannot, however, say that about most other players in the league. Those you can – Mikal Bridges, Andrew Wiggins, Marcus Smart, Aaron Gordon of recent, Andre Iguodala of old – are few and coveted.

These player types are defensive specialists – also a rarity in this current rendition of the NBA – with enough of an offensive impact to, at least, remain threatening. Specifically, a shooting threat. In other words, can teams treat you like Mathisse Thybulle or not?

In these last three years, O.G. has shot 37.6% on about 6 attempts a game – roughly, that of Devin Booker this year – from three. Nearly 2% higher than this season’s league average. Add to that a fluctuating growth in rip-and-go’s, post-ups, and pull-ups, and O.G. continues to grow – albeit slowly – as an offensive threat, despite his recent struggles.

In fact, looking at NBA scoring lineups, as of Thursday, O.G. is in two of the top sixteen two-man lineups in the NBA with Freddy (8th) – the highest on the Raptors – and Pascal (16th). He is also in the 4th highest scoring three-man lineup, the 11th and 16th highest scoring four-man lineups, and the 5th highest scoring five-man lineup of lineups that have played at least 20 games together.

Regardless, the shooting and scoring are nice-to-haves. O.G.’s defensive prowess is such (#2) that up until a few weeks ago he was a Defensive Player of the Year candidate. He is one of only six guys to average more than 1.7 steals a game, leads all of them in blocks per game and leads the league in deflections. Most importantly, however, O.G. is one of a handful that effectively defends, and stops, All-Stars at every position. On Wednesday, he spent a good amount of time on Domantas Sabonis. A few weeks back it was Ja Morant. Before that, Kevin Durant.

Thus, we’re not just talking about a young player with good potential on a great contract. We’re talking about an extremely rare, highly sought after NBA player type. And whatever direction Toronto chooses to go – young core: Scottie, Precious, Gary; status quo core: Pascal, Freddy/Gary, Scottie – O.G. not only fits, he’s needed.

Trade him, it’s Gary or Precious taking on the league’s fearsome wings and creators. Trade him, and suddenly shooting gets even uglier. Not only that, but replacing shooters like O.G. isn’t exactly easy (Duncan Robinson, Davis Bertans and, ahem, Matt Thomas, attest to how hard it is to find shooters who don’t simply get attacked off the floor).

All I’m saying is, if you’re the fly on the cabin wall of every team’s off-season executive retreat, you’ll probably see circled in red on huge white boards the name “O.G. Anunoby”. He is and will continue to be the fantasy of every GM searching for the final piece to a championship contender or cobbling the building blocks of a team’s future.

Even if today, right now, you told me, this is it. This is the O.G. you’re going to get now and forrrr evverrrrr. I’d say, okay, great. Sign me up. Sign him up. Sign him up now. Forever.

If O.G. wants out, different story. Let him go. If he needs to go, or thinks he’s better off elsewhere, that’s his prerogative. No sense keeping unhappy dudes around. I still caution him as he proceeds, and wish him the best.

Like Oren Weisfeld said on the Rap Up on Wednesday, O.G. offers the best return. If this team wants to totally retool on the fly he’s the most leverage on the least sized fulcrum.

Otherwise, enough with the speculation.

It doesn’t matter if his growth has slowed, or potential decreased, or production waned, O.G. is and will continue to be the perfect fit for whatever Toronto Raptors edition comes next: Tanking, Retool, or Playoff Push.

14 thoughts on “Two Things I Don’t Like About the O.G. Anunoby Trade Rumours”

  1. You’re so awesome! I don’t believe I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find someone with some original thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This website is something that is needed on the internet, someone with a little originality!

    Reply

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