The Toronto Raptors may have changed their defensive philosophy after Darko Rajakovic came in to replace Nick Nurse. Even with such monumental schematic changes taking place, OG Anunoby has continued to play excellent defensive basketball in a win against the Dallas Mavericks.
While Rajakovic isn’t switching as much as Nurse did, he is still devising ways for Anunoby to use his uncommonly excellent versatility and skill on-ball to take away the opponent’s best player. The results have spoken for themselves, as Toronto ranks seventh in the league in defensive rating.
Rajakovic has been blown away by how analytical and prepared Anunoby has been for these games. Per Aaron Rose of Sports Illustrated, Anunoby has been so impressive in Rajakovic’s eyes that the 26-year-old dynamo has been offered a spot on whatever coaching staff Rajakovic is on when he retires.
“It’s amazing,” Rajakovic said. “It’s just like his ability to guard players like from Giannis [Antetokounmpo] to Luka to when needed to go and guard [Tyrese] Maxey or [Damian] Lillard or whoever, he can guard one through five and he takes a lot a lot of pride on the defensive end.”
Darko Rajakovic seemingly offers Toronto Raptors’ OG Anunoby coaching job
While Mavericks superstar Luka Doncic’s 31 points, seven rebounds, and eight assists don’t sound like the ingredients for an off night, Doncic was just 2-10 from 3-point range and waiting until the game started to get out of hand before really stuffing the stat sheet.
With Anunoby as the close defender, both Anthony Edwards and DeMar DeRozan shot under 15% from the field, and Joel Embiid didn’t exactly put up the most impressive numbers. While it sounds like a simple solution, the idea of giving Anunoby more time to try to lock down the best opposing player exclusively has been a win for Rajakovic and defensive assistant Pat Delany.
Anunoby may not lead the league in steals per game like he did last year, but his individual performances this year might be even more impressive. Despite playing for an offense-minded coach and having lost a great defender around him in Fred VanVleet, Anunoby is playing better than ever.
As the trade rumors continue to swirl around the Raptors, Anunoby is making a strong case for long-term retention. Between his excellent defensive skills and knockdown 3-point shooting under Rajakovic, Anunoby’s performance this season has been nothing short of exemplary.