OG Anunoby is still OG Anunoby.
I say that as no knock against the Toronto Raptors' 23-year-old forward who will one day make an All-Defence team. He remains one of the best 3-and-D players in the NBA by pairing elite defensive versatility with a 39.5% 3-point shooting stroke that is almost three points above league-average. But the rumours of his on-ball offensive development this season have been greatly exaggerated.
After inking Anunoby to a four-year $72 million contract extension this past offseason, the Raptors have used their defensive stopper a little bit more on offence in 2020-21. His usage rate is up over 2% this year and he's averaging two more shots per game than last season.
In isolated instances, he's really shown flashes of offensive playmaking.
He's seeing more touches per game, holding on to the ball for longer, and dribbling the ball more than ever before in his career, according to NBA Stats.
The biggest change Anunoby has made this season is in the mid-range game. This year, 14% of his shots have come from the mid-range, according to Cleaning the Glass, a jump of 5% from last season.
But those mid-range attempts have merely come at the expense of more efficient shots at the rim where Anunoby is only taking 37% of his shots this season compared to 53% last year, per Cleaning the Glass.
|Shots at the Rim||Mid-Range Shots||3-Point Shots|
Looking closer at Anunoby's offensive game you'll find that he's only become more of a 3-and-D player this season. More of his shots are coming from behind the arc than last season and an even larger plurality of those have been on catch-and-shoot looks. Last year, for example, 38% of Anunoby's shots were 3-pointers and 36.7% of his shots were on catch-and-shoot attempts. This season, those numbers have jumped to 49% and 48.7%, respectively.
That's OK though because Anunoby is really really good at doing exactly what's asked of him.
Every elite NBA team needs a player like Anunoby. Championship teams these days almost always have one defensive stopper who doesn't require a superstar's load on offence. With Anunoby, the defence is certainly there and his ability to nail 3-pointers at an impressive clip opens things up for Toronto in the half-court.
Take a look at Anunoby's Gravity+, a statistic created by Dr. Andrew Patton Ph.D. to measure how much a player distorts a defence simply by being in a certain area. Think of it as a respect factor. When Stephen Curry or Duncan Robinson are on the court opposing defences are pulled in their direction any time they're behind the 3-point line, opening things up inside for everyone else.
This season, Anunoby's 3-point Gravity+ is way up from last year, meaning he's creating even more space for the Raptors to attack the inside.
Anunoby will probably never evolve into the Kawhi Leonard-type that some had hoped. Truthfully, that kind of development curve is always pretty unrealistic. But this season has shown Anunoby can evolve into an even better version of himself by becoming an even more dangerous 3-and-D player.
So even if he doesn't become an on-ball playmaker — a possibility that can't be ruled out yet considering he's just 23 years old — he's still an incredibly important player for the future of Raptors basketball.