Toronto Raptors: Who should start when Kawhi Leonard is resting?

Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Kawhi Leonard (Photo by Mark Blinch/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Toronto Raptors
Toronto Raptors – OG Anunoby (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

OG Anunoby

OG Anunoby seems the most likely to start in place of Kawhi, mainly because we saw him do it in 62 games last season.

Anunoby won the starting spot from Norman Powell early on last season, and after that, he delivered a sensational rookie season where he averaged 5.9 points on 57-percent effective field-goal percentage.

OG fit in seamlessly with the starting line-up, he didn’t need the ball in his hands, he could defend multiple positions and he could shoot the three-ball effectively. He was a 37-percent shooter on 2.7 attempts per game. This season, his percentage has dropped to 34-percent but he’s taking 3.2 threes per game now.

The signing of Kawhi Leonard, along with the breakout season of Pascal Siakam, forced OG Anunoby out of the starting line-up and on to the bench. He’s looked okay in stretches but overall, he has regressed from last season.

A lot of that will be down to the players around him. Anunoby isn’t someone who can create off the dribble, though we have seen it on a rare occasion, and most of his scoring opportunities come from catch-and-shoot looks.

Inserting Anunoby into the line-up would certainly help him develop, playing alongside better playmakers, like Kyle Lowry and Marc Gasol, assuming he starts, means he can build better chemistry with those around him.

Having another strong perimeter defender would help the team too, a reoccurring trend with all of the candidates in this article. However, Anunoby is by far the most instinctive in that category. His combination of height and length poses a real problem for anyone he’s guarding. We’ve seen him defend LeBron James fairly well in the playoffs, and often the best offensive player on every opposing team last season.

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If Nick Nurse were to pick anyone to start ahead of Kawhi, it should be OG Anunoby. We’ve seen him do it before and allowing him to grow as a player would benefit all sides here.