1. Gordon Hayward vs OG Anunoby
The Gordon Hayward-OG Anunoby matchup will be a big one.
The NBA world wanted Mitch Kupchak’s head on a pike for giving Hayward a nine-figure contract after years of injuries and declining performance in Boston, but he has looked every bit like the All-Star player he was with the Utah Jazz.
Hayward is averaging a career-high 22.5 points per game, all the while shooting 50% from the field and 40% from 3-point range. Hayward, who has seen time both on the wing and as a smaller power forward, will likely draw a challenge from OG Anunoby, as Toronto’s only hope of stopping Hayward is to let their best perimeter defender match up with him.
Anunoby’s hefty new contract was given out to him with the intention that he would become one of the best defenders in the league, even if his offensive game remains firmly in the average tier. Expect the Raptors to do everything in their power to get Anunoby on an island with Hayward, as James Borrego has constructed the offense to fit completely around Hayward and his style of play. Shutting him down would mean that one of Charlotte’s two inefficient guards in Rozier or Graham will have to pick up the scoring slack, a potential outcome that would play right into Toronto’s hands.
The Raptors have hit the skids of late, but the Hornets could help them get back on the right track if Hayward has an off night and Toronto’s role players end up doing their part to shut the offense down.