There is one guy who has been missing from the Raptors rotation for the past 7 weeks, however it’s felt much longer than that. True bandwagons who only started watching this team after the Kawhi shot might not even know who he is, despite him having been a crucial part of this team last season. He was one of the few guys on this team who didn’t fizzle out in the playoffs, and held the highest trade value during the 2018 offseason. His name is OG Anunoby.
A classy sophomore who was selected as a rising star this year after being snubbed in his rookie campaign, is still one of the most versatile defenders on this team, even amongst the likes of Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green, Pascal Siakam, and Norman Powell. OG was drawing comparisons to Kawhi Leonard even before the two joined forces. The hype around OG grew exponentially once news broke that the two would be playing together. Though OG played 67 games this season, it feels like much less than that. He had a decreased role with the emergence of Pascal Siakam, being shifted to the bench, and his production didn’t spike as we had hoped, only averaging 7.0 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game, on slightly lower percentages than last season.
His season didn’t start as expected though; he dealt with the loss of his father in late September, just as training camp was beginning. That forced him to spend some time away from the team, understandably. Then again, he injured his wrist just a couple months into the season, and soon after returning from that, suffered a concussion. He just couldn’t catch a break at all. Finally after he started to establish somewhat of a rhythm with the team before the playoffs, he was forced to receive an emergency appendectomy the day before the Magic series tipped off. As if he couldn’t get any unluckier, there was a complication during the surgery, causing it to take even longer than it should have, which is why his recovery has also been prolonged. He was originally given a timetable that would have him set to return for the beginning of the conference finals. Fast forward to Game 3 of the NBA Finals, and we are only expecting to see him back now. Better late than never though – especially for a guy like OG who you love to see succeed.
From a basketball perspective, what impact can he still have on this series against the Warriors though? Well, not to overstate it, but huge. Especially with Kevin Durant expected back in the lineup soon for the Dubs, the Raptors need another defender to throw at a long wing like him. Durant praised OG to the media last year, saying that he’s impressed by Anunoby, after being asked which rookies caught his attention.
Not only will he be another look to throw at the former MVP, but he provides some relief for guys like Kawhi and Siakam, who have had to play heavy minutes all playoffs. OG should be capable of playing approximately 20 minutes in his return, which will take some weight off the other guys’ shoulders.
He is also an exceptional rebounder (despite the numbers, he has a big body and great leaping ability), and a good shooter when he can find his stroke. Though only a 35% career three point shooter, when he catches fire from beyond the arc he is unstoppable. Rewind to the game against the Cavaliers on December 21st, and you’ll recall that OG had an amazing first quarter, showing his complete arsenal of post moves, spot-up threes, and drives.
He doesn’t have to lead the team in scoring, as he hopefully returns to the lineup tonight for his first ever look at finals basketball. If he can add some production by hitting his open shots, playing solid defense, and helping on the glass, while getting Kawhi some much needed rest, he will have a huge impact on this game. OG, Toronto’s behind you. Even if half these fans don’t know you… yet.