Toronto Raptors: Anunoby’s offensive woes a tough equation to solve

Toronto Raptors - OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - OG Anunoby and Kyle Lowry (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors must figure out a way to get OG Anunoby more involved on offence. The second-year pro has struggled most of his sophomore season.

It’s easy to root for OG Anunoby, but when a player struggles as badly as he has this season, there comes a point where it may make sense to give him a few games off to clear his mind. Or perhaps the Toronto Raptors’ coaching staff simply ought to lock Anunoby in the gym and not permit him to leave until he’s draining corner threes with the same frequency as Danny Green?

After a rookie season that featured glimpses of brilliance, mostly on the defensive side of things though there were memorable moments on offence as well, OG Anunoby’s sophomore campaign has been a disappointment. And that’s putting it mildly.

There is no way around it – OG has not been good in 2018-19, however, he does still have time. 25 games remaining with fewer wings (C.J. Miles and Delon Wright) around to take minutes. The Raptors staff is counting on Anunoby to improve.

Make no mistake, if Toronto is to make its first Finals appearance, the stoic 21-year-old figures to play a key role along the way. While few will question his commitment to defence, Anunoby is going to have to start knocking down open shots.

Anunoby is currently converting on just 32.7 percent of his three-point attempts, down 4.4 percent from last season’s mark. Making matters worse, his struggles coincide with having a greater role on offence. Under Nick Nurse, Anuoby’s usage percentage sits at 15.9, three and a half percent higher than last season’s mark of 12.4.

Unfortunately, he hasn’t done much with the added opportunities – last season, the former Hoosier made 1.8 threes per 36 minutes, on 4.8 attempts, but in 46 games this season, Anunoby sits at 1.9 made threes but is taking nearly one more per 36 minutes (5.8). He’s essentially doing less with more.

On three-point attempts considered “wide open” (meaning the closest defender is 6+ feet away per, Anunoby is shooting just 34.3 percent this season. For comparison’s sake, Danny Green is shooting 48 percent on similar shots.

Anunoby must show Nick Nurse — sooner rather than later — that he’s found his touch from outside. Going into the playoffs with no such evidence will put the Toronto Raptors at a disadvantage, as teams will simply disregard Anunoby, choosing instead to focus their gaze on Toronto’s more lethal offensive weapons, specifically Kawhi Leonard.

Leonard, for as good as he is, needs shooters around him to force defences to stretch their coverages and open up space for him to work. Outside of Danny Green, no other player is hitting threes with acceptable consistency.

Kyle Lowry, Serge Ibaka, and Fred VanVleet have all regressed as shooters this season. Pascal Siakam is great; you don’t want to rely on him to consistently make outside shots.

Shooting struggles, such as those plaguing Anunoby, are nearly impossible for teams to hide from come playoff time, and therefore, are a gift to opposing defences. Good teams will clog the paint and dare “scared” shooters to take and make open shots.

The hope is Anunoby — with help from teammates and coaches — can figure things out, but right now, his struggles and timidness on offence are holding Toronto back. If it were up to me, I’d have OG shadowing Danny Green at practice. After that, why not have him on an episode of Inside the Green Room?

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Maybe all the youngster needs is to chill out, relax, and record a 45 minute podcast about everything on his mind except basketball.