Fred VanVleet is gone. Nick Nurse is gone. Pascal Siakam is in his prime but approaching 30, and the Toronto Raptors have a roster that lacks depth and efficient shooting capabilities. This year, there’s a lot riding on OG Anunoby to step up as a main-stay consistent shooter. It’s not going to be easy.
Anunoby has always been a talent. In his rookie year, during Game 3 in the 2018 Eastern Semifinals against a LeBron James-led Cavaliers team, OG, a then 20-year-old, stood tall.
With the Raptors down 79-65 to start the final quarter and with DeMar DeRozan benched after going 3-12 in 28 minutes, OG helped get the Raptors back in the game, amassing 18 points for the game while going 7-12 from the field and 4-7 from outside the arc.
Ever since 2018, he’s never felt like he was all that far away from breaking out and being a key cog in the Raptors’ offense. There have been obstacles that have stifled his upward trajectory. He’s had to overcome knee injuries, competitive Raptors rosters, an emergency appendectomy, and the passing of his father. Through it all, OG has kept evolving his offensive game.
One of his greatest moments came in the 2020 NBA playoffs, Game 3 against the Celtics in the Vegas bubble. With 0.4 seconds left on the clock and the Raptors down 103-101, Kyle Lowry threw a bullet in-bound pass to OG, who flung it in for three to win the game and save the Raptors’ series.
He finished with the best 3-point shooting percentage for the Raptors with 46.4 percent for the series. “I don’t shoot, trying to miss, I wasn’t surprised,” OG said after the game.
Just like that game, Anunoby has left breadcrumbs for us to follow throughout the last six years. OG’s defensive game is up there with the NBA’s best. Last season, OG led the NBA in steals per game, and he made the All-Defensive Second Team. What the Raptors need now is for him to elevate his offensive game.
Will OG Anunoby become an offensive star for the Toronto Raptors?
No matter what direction Toronto goes in, OG needs to take a step forward. So with that, here are three games from last season that gave us a look at what OG can really do on offense. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s the kind of scoring Raptors fans will hope he can produce more regularly this season. The challenge for him will be replicating this output throughout the season.
Miami Heat, November 16, 2022 – 32 points, 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 13-18 in 43 minutes
OG dominated to the point where it felt like a top 10 (Top 5?) career outing. The best thing about this 32-point frenzy was that most of it was done in the paint through confident, contested drives. Even better than his 13-18 shooting, he was able to find space and create his own opportunities.
When a player like OG feels confident, he can drive to the rim like an All-Star. Shooting aside, he also showed that he could handle the ball, create and initiate the Raptors attack in traffic with speed. This is the version of OG the Raptors need to see more of – confident, sharp, and making good decisions.
Orlando Magic, December 3, 2022 – 32 points, 12-of-17 from the field, +21
The Magic were missing five rotation players in this game, but you got to see OG physically impose himself on players like Paolo Banchero. He piled up 20 points early, making shots from the line, mid-range, and at the rim. OG can defend, but the more confident he gets in front of the rim, the better his overall game will be.
Stealing a ball out of Mo Wagner’s hands, finishing with an athletic running jam, encapsulated the type of dynamic talent he can be at the peak of his powers. Consistency will be key, as Darko Rajakovic needs to get more Orlando games out of him.
Los Angeles Lakers, March 10, 2023 – 31 points, 5 steals, 12-14 from the field
It was a night as close to perfection as he could possibly get on the shooting side. OG made his first 11 shots. He only missed two shots from the field for the night and drained four 3-pointers. The downside? The Lakers got hot, and the Raptors couldn’t make stops when it mattered in the fourth quarter giving up 37-22. They lost the game by 10, through minimal fault of Anunoby.
We have to remember OG Anunoby doesn’t have the same two-way ilk as, say, Kawhi Leonard. The good news is he’s still finding that balance between staying elite at defending and being an aggressive scorer. For OG, It’s just a matter of being good at switching hats, knowing when to lock down, and taking opportunities to attack. It’s a tough balance.
Can OG Anunoby thrive with Darko Rajakovic?
The Raptors will be different this season. Under Rajakovic, the entire roster will have to learn his way, which will take time. The Raptors will have to mesh the old crew with the new pieces. Depth will be an issue once again. Could more trading help that?
VanVleet’s replacement has come through journeyman Dennis Schroder with more offensively-minded players in Gradey Dick coming in. Figuring out how to use those pieces while factoring in key shooting roles for Anunoby, Siakam, and Scottie Barnes is going to mean some short-term growing pains for Rajakovic.
BetMGM has the Raptors at very early NBA Championship odds of 100-1, implying a long rebuild could be beginning this season. All of this points to one thing; scoring opportunities. There’s plenty of it this season for Anunoby.
He’ll theoretically have more responsibility offensively, space, and ball-handling. If there’s ever a window here for him to take a monster leap, this year is it. OG pours everything into guarding the best players. By the end of the game, he’s spent. So how much of his elite defending does he need to shed in order for him to expand offensively? Could he juggle both?
With Fred VanVleet gone, this puts OG in foreign territory as the man on a Raptors team with the most proven success as a shooter. Can Rajakovic coax more quality shooting nights out of him than Nurse did?
Rajakovic must answer some big questions. Will OG play the same role he had last year? Will others like Scottie Barnes and Gradey Dick get more opportunities? Can he continue scoring while giving Pascal Siakam and Gary Trent Jr. enough shots impact the game?
The Raptors will be hoping OG Anunoby can land in the 20-ish points per night range. The Raptors need him to take that kind of leap if they still dream of the playoffs.