This is the first of a weekly series breaking down what certain players can do to take their game to another level this season. We'll be looking at the likes of Lonzo Ball and Jamal Murray in the weeks to come.
Following a rookie season in which he surpassed everyone's expectations, OG Anunoby is poised to take the next step in his development.
The No. 23 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, Anunoby proved to be a capable 3-point shooter and versatile defender as the starting small forward on the top seeded team in the Eastern Conference last season. He might not have the superstar upside of Jayson Tatum or Donovan Mitchell, but the Toronto Raptors forward has the makings of a valuable 3-and-D wing.
Diversifying his skill set on offense will only help him reach his full potential in that role, particularly when it comes to attacking closeouts. Nearly three-quarters of Anunoby's field goal attempts came without a dribble last season, the bulk of which came in the form of wide open catch-and-shoot 3s set up by Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan. His dependence on those looks resulted in him being assisted more frequently than most of the players in his draft class.
Anunoby's jump shot was seen as a weakness coming into the NBA, so his development into an above-average spot-up shooter in Year 1 caught many by surprise. The better he gets in that department, the more teams will run him off the 3-point line as opposed to daring him to beat them from outside, opening up opportunities for him to put the ball on the floor and use his athleticism to score at the basket.
Anunoby flashed some potential off the dribble as a rookie, albeit to mixed results. There were times when he put it all together for an impressive finish...
...but he was more likely to miss a shot you'd expect someone with a 7-foot-2 wingspan to make.
According to NBA.com, nine Raptors attempted more field goals on drives than the 21-year-old last season. He converted a low percentage of those shots compared to the rest of the league and failed to draw fouls consistently, the latter being something he struggled with in college.
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It didn't help that Anunoby was a complete non-threat from midrange, either.
There are some things holding Anunoby back from being an elite finisher in the NBA - he's more of a powerful athlete as opposed to an explosive one and he didn't have the best touch around the basket in college - but he should be able to build on those flashes from last season, especially if defenders have to be more wary of him on the 3-point line. With proven shooters surrounding him at every position, it will simplify Anunoby's options when does drive, both as a scorer and a passer.
Even if Anunoby doesn't make strides off the dribble next season, it won't prevent him from making an impact on a team that is expected to finish near the top of the Eastern Conference standings again. A player with his defensive chops will find minutes on just about every team in the league, regardless of what they bring offensively. There just aren't many wings who can knock down 3s at a respectable rate, make basic plays for themselves off the dribble and lock up the opposing team's best offensive player.
Assuming Kawhi Leonard returns to full health and Lowry continues to play at an All-Star level, that's just the type of player the Raptors need in their rotation to compete for a title this season.