One day OG Anunoby will get the defensive notoriety he deserves.
The 23-year-old Toronto Raptors guard is among the NBA's best isolation defenders. He's versatile, switchable, and the ideal defensive player in today's modern NBA. He can lockdown pesky guards like C.J. McCollum, Duncan Robinson, and Kyrie Irving, and hold his own against some of the toughest bigs like Nikola Jokic, Zion Williamson, and Bam Adebayo. One day his name will certainly come up in defensive player of the year conversations, but that day hasn't come yet.
Anunoby didn't receive a single vote for the 2020-21 NBA's Defensive Player of the Year, an award Rudy Gobert won for the third time in the last four years. Frankly, it wouldn't be too surprising if Anunoby didn't receive any votes for either of the NBA's All-Defensive teams this season.
Earlier in the year, Raptors coach Nick Nurse acknowledged the possibility that Anunoby wouldn't get very much recognition for his defensive play this past season.
"I think that day is probably coming," Nurse said. "I think that the reality of it is we're not really on the radar much. Right? Nobody's talking about any of our guys in any facet whatsoever. So I think if we can get the team back into contention and relevancy and things like that, then I think he’ll move to the forefront."
Of the 12 players who did receive votes for the award, only Draymond Green and Myles Turner didn't make it past the play-in tournament of the playoffs and only Atlanta's Clint Capella was on a below-average NBA defense.
The other issue for Anunoby was simply missed time. He played in just 43 of Toronto's 72 games this past year, missing time with COVID-19 and a nagging calf injury.
Ironically, if Anunoby is really going to jump up into the Defensive Player of the Year discussion he's probably going to have to take another jump on the offensive end. He saw his offensive number increase across the board in 2020-21, especially after Norman Powell was traded to Portland. His offensive playmaking with the ball improved and he began making shots off the dribble. The key for him going forward is going to be continuing that growth and staying aggressive when the ball comes to him.
“Looking for my shot more. Looking to get other people involved more. Trying not to be passive," Anunoby said during his season-ending media availability. "Just trying to make an impact on the game on both ends."
When he becomes a true two-way player like Gobert and Ben Simmons, that's when his name will really start popping up as one of the league's truly elite defensive studs.