The Toronto Raptors have hit the skids in recent weeks due to injuries impacting Pascal Siakam and Precious Achiuwa. The play of O.G. Anunoby on both ends of the floor is one of the main reasons that Toronto has not careened off the side of the proverbial highway without No. 43 in the lineup.
On top of being an amazing on-ball defender and one of the few players in the league who can guard all five positions earnestly, Anunoby is averaging right around three steals per game. If he can stay over that mark, he will be the first player in over 30 years to average that many steals per contest.
An All-Defensive nomination is finally going to come Anunoby’s way if he can stay healthy, but the Indiana product has bigger plans for himself. He believes that he is the best defensive player in the NBA, and O.G. may indeed be honored as such when it comes time to vote on awards.
Anunoby’s DPOY campaign is already well underway in Canada, but the momentum will continue to spread outside of the country if the Raptors are able to keep winning. Anunoby should be at or near the top of every Defensive Player of the Year list.
NBA Defensive Player of the Year Ladder: Is O.G. Anunoby at the top?
6. Herb Jones, New Orleans Pelicans
Much like Christian Koloko this year, Jones was able to assert himself as a starter right away in New Orleans despite his second-round status. He’s become an undroppable player in that timeframe, showing the same positional versatility that made him a valued presence at Alabama.
1.3 steals and 0.6 blocks per game don’t do justice to Jones and what New Orleans is asking him to do. Jones may not blow up social media, but there may not be a more consistent defensive player in the Western Conference. Anunoby has to consider him a legitimate contender he needs to fend off.
Toronto Raptors: O.G. Anunoby and Mikal Bridges are playing well.
5. Mikal Bridges, Phoenix Suns
Bridges and Anunoby are often considered similar players, as they are wing stoppers who supplement their nonstop hustle with solid 3-point shooting. As long as Phoenix keeps winning, the media will be all-in on bridges and his feisty turnover generation on the perimeter.
Bridges plays every day, ranks very high on the deflections list, and has legitimate multi-position versatility. Considering how team success often plays a role in the voters deciding who ends up winning, Bridges helping the Suns steamroll the West would be a nice feather in his cap.