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What About Scarves O.G.?

The dilemma with O.G. is whether he is a great 3-and-D player or is he something more. Let's take a look.

O.G. Anunoby’s name has been involved in a lot of the trade chatter leading up to Thursday’s trade deadline. The speculation has come about because of O.G.’s apparent unhappiness with his role in Toronto and his desire to leave the team. The issue was first brought up by Jake Fischer in his article for Bleacher Report, where he stated that Anunoby was dissatisfied in Toronto, back in May of 2022. With Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as the headliners for the team and the emergence of Scottie Barnes as the future, O.G. was left questioning how much of the touches were left for him and his growth. Toronto’s reluctance to provide more opportunities for the British-born baller seems to have widened the divide between team and player. With his obvious talents, it seems worth wading into the reasons for Toronto’s unwillingness to appease the young wing.

O.G. was, and most probably will always be an enigma. He is an outwardly shy, reticent young man with a subtle yet explosive sense of humour. He is beloved by both fans and teammates alike. O.G. combines an innocent, mischievous, younger brother vibe with a workman-like on-court presence. Always willing to: do the dirty work; defend his teammates; mix it up with overly aggressive, opposing players. and who can forget his famous moment with his BFF Serge Ibaka?

O.G. came into the league as an unpolished gem with a lot of potential but no set path as to who or what he would be at the NBA level. His defence was, and still is, his calling card. As a wing, his ability to be a presence around the rim both as a defender and rebounder offered a lot of potential. His lateral quickness and strength were an unusual pairing that left a lot for the imagination to ponder. 

His offensive game on the other hand left a lot to be asked for. Initially an off-ball cutter, he was seen to have poor shooting mechanics and a slow release. His free-throw shooting was well below average. Yet he showed potential as a 3-point shooter. His ability to create and basketball IQ were concerning. 

The questions around O.G. were escalated by his season-ending knee surgery as a sophomore at Indiana.

Yet, O.G. created a lot of buzz around the league, primarily from his addition to the Sporting News preseason All-American team as well as the way he shut down Kentucky’s Jamaal Murray in the NCAA tournament as a freshman. 

His athleticism, defensive attributes and potential as a 3-and-D player were enough for Masai Ujiri to take him with the 23rd pick in the 2017 NBA draft.

His popularity with fans from both the US and overseas has seen his stock rise on international platforms like these.

Fast forward to the present and we can see how that potential has developed into a highly effective NBA player. His defence is at an All-NBA first-team level and that three-point shot has for the most part become a weapon. He has transformed his free-throw shooting from 62% in his first year in the league to its current 82.7%. But some of the troubling aspects of his game are still apparent. Mostly his creation and scoring outside of corner 3s.

The tank year offensively was O.G.’s best. While his usage went from 13.8% from the year before to 18.4%, his effective-field-goal% (eFG) stayed above the league average while shooting 69% from the rim, 34% from mid and 40% from three. All the while increasing his assist totals and managing to maintain his turnover percentage at 12%. Increased usage with a little digression or none at all, is very impressive and far from expected analytically. Yet O.G. managed to pull it off. 

It’s understandable why O.G. would want and ask for more touches and a bigger role within the offence.

His last two years have shown a different story. Anunoby’s usage has bumped to 20% for 2021-22 and 19.2% for 2022-23, which has coincided with a drop-off in all offensive areas except for his corner 3s.

As his usage increased he moved into the mid-range at the expense of attacking the rim and shooting from the three-point line. Few teams are willing to give up threes from the corner but they will give up the mid-range gladly. Higher usage lends itself to settling for poorer shots. The phenomenon is so widespread that it has a specific name, the skill curve. As O.G.’s shots kept increasing so did the inevitable decrease in his eFG%. 

In the 20-21 season, he maintained a higher efficiency by increasing his three-point shots and making them at a 40% rate. The 21-22 and 22-23 seasons saw that 3-point shooting accuracy fall while his mid-range output kept increasing, leading to the only two seasons where O.G. has shot below league-average eFG%.

Rim:

O.G. has always been effective at the rim, thanks to his size and strength. He has never shot below 60% when close to the basket and scores well above average in that range for a wing. His ability to create turn-overs leads to a lot of transition dunks and lay-ups.

Threes:

His three-point shooting has tailored off from a high of 40% in 20-21 and sits around 37% for this season. He is highly efficient from corner threes shooting 44% this year with a high of 47% last year. But his three-point percentages drop below average for all non-corner threes. This year he is shooting 30% from non-corner threes. 

Mid-Range:

This is where all the efficiencies break down. O.G. has shot poorly from the mid for all of his career.  He has never posted mid-range numbers higher than his three-point percentages. If O.G. wants to be a greater focus of any team’s offence, he needs to develop spots where he can shoot effectively on the wing and paint. How often do you see Anunoby make a pull-up jumper? It needs to be an efficient part of his arsenal. 

Assists:

Another area of concern. O.G.’s assist% and assist-to-usage rates are very low for a wing. Combine that with a high turnover rate for his position and the issues with his increased usage spikes.

Conclusion: 

The dilemma with O.G. is whether he is a great 3-and-D player or something more. Someone in the mould of Khris Middleton or Klay Thompson before their injuries. The truth is that both of them are far superior mid-range shooters. Both have three-point ranges extending beyond the corners. Teams can’t be as aggressive on close-outs against Middleton or Thompson as they can be with O.G. because both can relocate and still shoot efficiently. O.G. does not have the counters in his game to be able to replicate their percentages. 

While O.G. may believe that he is that type of player and may well be one day, he currently serves the team best in that 3-and-D role, specifically shooting from the corners. Any role beyond that isn’t of benefit to the team. He doesn’t serve well as a hub like Scotty Barnes or Pascal Siakam, he is not as good a scorer as Gary Trent Jr., outside of the corners. Fred VanVleet has similar shooting numbers but he also provides twice as many assists from his usage than O.G. with fewer turnovers. These are all takeaways that most of us can see from the eye test but the numbers bear it out. 

Within the current context of the team, it’s hard to justify a greater offensive role for O.G.. By doing so you are taking touches away from players who can provide more offensively than he can. On a team that struggles with a below-average eFG%, adding more inefficiencies only exacerbates the team’s current shooting struggles.

Does O.G. deserve more touches? It’s understandable why he might think so, he has worked hard to develop his game. You have to appreciate his desire and commitment. From that standpoint, he is more than deserving. Does it make sense for the Raptors to give him the ball more? At this point, probably not.

Anunoby in my opinion is the third-best player on a championship team. Defensively he can fill a lot of holes: point-of-attack; off-ball; guard multiple positions; creates steals and blocks; close lanes. Offensively he exudes a lot of gravity at the perimeter and dunker spot. He also creates a lot of buckets in transition. Beyond that, his scope is severely limited. He is not going to get you 20 or more points a night consistently. And that’s an issue if he wants to take shots and touches away from Scottie or Pascal.

While O.G. may say that he put Serge onto scarves and fashion, it’s time for O.G. to kick up his mid-range fit if he wants to be the player he believes he can be.

All Statistics unless appropriately noted were taken from Cleaning The Glass.