The Toronto Raptors trading away Norman Powell to the Portland Trail Blazers might’ve brought Gary Trent Jr. back, but one of the main side-effects of that trade is the fact that OG Anunoby, who is locked in as one of the core pieces for the new few seasons, is going to get an increased workload on the offensive end.
While Anunoby might elevate himself to the role of tertiary or quarternary scorer without Powell, but his value will always lie with his exceptional defense, as his ability to guard anyone and everyone on that end is one of Toronto’s best assets.
One of the biggest crimes in the league over the last few years has been Anunoby’s lack of recognition in the NBA for his skills on defense, as he has yet to make an All-Defensive team despite his unique skillset making him one of the game’s most unheralded players at any position.
His performance this year has been one of the few positive facets of a brutal, unnatural Raptors season. Not only is he the best defender on the Raptors and the best on-ball defender in the Atlantic division, but there is a case to be made for Anunoby as the best non-center defender in the game today.
OG Anunoby is the most versatile defender in the NBA
Anunoby is willing to play center at times on defense, which is vital for Toronto’s smaller lineup. Given his 7-2 wingspan, Anunoby has the size to deal with centers, the length to stuff wing players, and the speed to stop quicker guards.
Anunoby truly guards all five positions, splitting up his time so evenly that he guards every position at least 15% of the time, but no more than 26% of the time. You can count on one hand the number of players with the size and physical tools.
These numbers come in the context of often guarding the opposing team’s best player, a daunting task that most others are not often up for.
OG Anunoby is the best defender on the Toronto Raptors
Per Cleaning the Glass (subscription required), the Raptors are 8.4 points per 100 possessions better when Anunoby is on the floor as compared to when he’s off, a mark that puts him in the 94th percentile across the whole NBA.
When Anunoby is on the floor, the Raptors are one of the best defensive teams in the league. The second he ends up taking a rest, they regress to one of the worst in that department.
The likes of Ben Simmons and Draymond Green are certainly excellent at their craft, but the advanced metrics support the fact that Anunoby is in a tier all his own among forwards.
Even though the Raptors’ poor regular season might make it hard for individual players to make it to any All-whatever teams this year, Anunoby has blossomed into a genuine star for Toronto, and it would be a shame if his heroic efforts went unrewarded.