There was a sense of uneasiness from OG Anunoby to start the season. He'd been talked up as the next star for the Toronto Raptors coming out of the preseason and he looked to be pressing, trying to create something out of nothing offensively.
"I was rushing things. I wasn't reading the defense," Anunoby said Monday night.
That's the hardest part of being the go-to guy in the NBA. It's one thing to nail open catch-and-shoot looks, as Anunoby did for so long, it's another to be able to react to the defense, make dump-off or kick-out passes when the defense collapses, or go up strong when the chances arise.
In the first two games of the year, Anunoby shot 7-for-34 from the field (20.6%) and tallied just four assists. He was predetermining his moves, he said, attacking without reacting, trying to move mechanically without fully understanding what opposing teams were trying to do to him.
His response was to really sit down and break down the film to see how he was being defended. He realized he needed to be smoother, figure out where defenders were coming from, and react in the moment.
Since then, Anunoby has completely turned things around. His field goal percentage has jumped up to 46.4% over Toronto's last six games and he's averaging 22.8 points per game. He's done it by taking fewer tough mid-range shots, adding some easier corner threes, and keeping defenses honest with his playmaking skills. Of his 18 assists in the last six games, 14 have come either from Anunoby posting up opposing defenders or his dribble penetration when teams send help his way. He's learned the delicate balancing act of when to take it himself and when to pass out of trouble to create looks for others.
All of that comes with time, Anunoby said Monday. Not only is it still an area he's working on, but he's still getting used to where his teammates are in certain sets and actions. With so much turnover this offseason, it's taken a little while for everyone to gel to the point where those kick-out and dump-off passes become second nature whenever help comes.
"He’s working and we’re working on developing a lot more offense and a lot more opportunities for him," Nurse said.