Toronto Raptors

One Play: Raptors OG Anunoby is winning games with his passing

Welcome to "One Play!" Throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, our NBA.com Staff will break down certain possessions from certain games and peel back the curtains to reveal its bigger meaning.

Today, Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby takes the spotlight.

Context: In the Raptors' 115-109 win over the Philadelphia 76ers, Gary Trent Jr. has made the headlines with his clutch go-ahead 3 - and rightly so - but it wouldn't have been possible without the playmaking of OG Anunoby.

In 39 minutes of action, Anunoby finished with 20 points, four rebounds and four assists, two of which came in the final 70 seconds of the game.

Without Anunoby's late-game dimes, the Raptors very well could have suffered their fourth-straight loss, but instead, his passing elevated Toronto to a win that could prove to be crucial down the line this season.

That being said, it's time to head to the film room!

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The play:

Breakdown: The evolution of Anunoby's game continues.

Down one with just over a minute remaining in regulation, the Raptors trust the 24-year-old with the ball as he initiates the half-court offence. On the strong side of the floor, center Precious Achiuwa is guarded by Andre Drummond in the dunker spot while Scottie Barnes is spaced out in the corner while his defender, Furkan Korkmaz, has his eye on the ball and his man.

On the weak side, Gary Trent Jr. is setting a screen for Fred VanVleet on the seemingly-unsuspecting Tyrese Maxey.

Achiuwa sprints into setting a ball screen for Anunoby, who has positioned himself to attack downhill.

Drummond doesn't hedge hard enough to discourage the drive, giving Anunoby a clear driving lane to get to the rim, causing Maxey to drop down and cover Achiuwa on the roll while Seth Curry must keep an eye on both Trent and Vanvleet.

In many cases, this would be an easy layup for Anunoby, but the 6-foot-10 Drummond has the length and athleticism to recover, which is something that Anunoby recognizes as he looks to pass while entering the lane.

Anunoby is able to get both feet in the paint, but he isn't looking to score as he and Trent read off of one another, as evidenced by Trent's spacing out to the corner while Curry attempts to recover.

Anunoby finds Trent at the corner at the perfect time, as Curry's closeout is a half-second too late.

Why it matters: A couple of reasons.

First and foremost, this was the go-ahead triple that put Toronto up for good. On the Raptors' next offensive possession, Anunoby again drove downhill, taking Drummond off the dribble to find a spacing VanVleet, who knocked down the dagger that put the game away.

Ahead of the 2021-22 season, NBA.com's Scott Rafferty listed growth as a playmaker as a way in which Anunoby can continue his ascension towards stardom in the NBA. His increased comfort in making plays for others on downhill drives will allow him to continue to diversify his offence as a scorer as well, as opposing defences will have to play him honestly and make difficult choices from help side positions.

Through 13 games, Anunoby's 3.0 assists per game are the best mark of his career up to this point and up from his average of 2.2 per game in the 2020-21 season. Anunoby shouldn't be expected to be a primary playmaker, but his growth as a passer will play a big role in the evolution of Toronto's offence in the post-Kyle Lowry era.

The growth in Anunoby as a playmaker is evident and on Thursday night, the Raptors wouldn't have won without it.

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