Thad Young must fill OG Anunoby’s role in Raptors playoff push

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 26: Thad Young #21 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - FEBRUARY 26: Thad Young #21 of the Toronto Raptors (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

The playoff hopes of the Toronto Raptors hit a roadblock when they announced that OG Anunoby suffered a fractured right ring finger. Even though he should come back in a couple of weeks, the Raptors will miss his presence. Players like Thad Young will need to take on an increased role.

His shooting and defense would’ve helped Toronto in a playoff race that is as tight as possible. It doesn’t help the Raptors that they don’t have Fred VanVleet at 100%. With two very tough losses against the Hornets and Hawks to begin the season, Toronto is not exactly operating at peak efficiency at the moment.

They made some changes with the lineup by adding Khem Birch in the starting five. That makes their lineup bigger, but that’s not going to fill Anunoby’s shoes (as evidenced by Birch’s play). Replicating his blend of interior finishing, on-ball defense, and switchability.

What will fill Anunoby’s role is giving Young more playing time. The Raptors acquired Young to make sure that they can get some more bench consistency, but circumstances could push him into an elevated role.

Thad Young can help the Toronto Raptors without OG Anunoby.

Young is a 15-year NBA veteran who was an important contributor on teams like the 76ers, Pacers, and Bulls before coming over to Toronto. Masai Ujiri ultimately decided to make the trade for him because of his potential to fit in seamlessly with the scheme Nick Nurse wants to implement.

He had a slow start as a Raptor after scoring just four points. But since his first game, Young scored 10 points twice. His field goal percentage was over 50% during Toronto’s last three games. Young is getting even more comfortable with what the Raptors are asking of him.

Young will give the team another offensive weapon. While not an amazing scorer, Young certainly can hit an open jumper or finish at the rim. Young has been more of a connector than a scorer so far, but he might need to take on a bigger role now that OG is sidelined.

On defense, look for Young to provide a somewhat convincing facsimile of the versatility Anunoby provides. Will it be as good? No. Can it be good enough to help Toronto fight off enemy broadsides? Absolutely.

The Raptors are currently seventh in the East. That means they are in the play-in tournament if the regular season ends today. If they want to move up to the sixth seed so they don’t have to participate in the play-in, they need Young to do his thing.

With Anunoby’s return more uncertain due to an injury impacting his shooting hand, trading a first-round pick to get someone with the combination of experience and skill that Young has may turn out to be a savvy move from Masai Ujiri.

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