Welcome to "One Possession!" Throughout the 2019-20 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: Anunoby dished out a career-high five assists in Toronto's win over the Sacramento Kings on Wednesday. He came close to matching his previous career-high of four assists in the first quarter alone when he recorded three assists. They weren't just a case of him making the extra pass either. There were a couple of times when he forced a rotation and found the open man.
The possession: Here's perhaps Anunoby's most impressive assist of the game:
Breakdown: With about 11 seconds remaining on the shot clock, Pascal Siakam looked to attack Trevor Ariza in isolation from the right corner. He faced up to the basket before turning his back to Ariza in an attempt to post him up.
Siakam has been a highly effective isolation and post scorer so far this season. According to NBA.com, he ranks in the 83rd percentile in isolation efficiency and the 63rd percentile in post-up efficiency. It's, therefore, no surprise that Kings centre Dewayne Dedmon chose to rotate off of Marc Gasol to prevent Siakam from spinning baseline or bulldozing his way to the basket.
De'Aaron Fox also helped off of his assignment, Norman Powell, at the top of the 3-point line to close off the middle of the court.
Dedmon's rotation specifically forced Nemanja Bjelica to help off Anunoby on the left wing. Gasol would have otherwise been unguarded underneath the basket. Being the massive target that he is, Siakam would've almost certainly found him for an easy two points.
As soon as Bjelica turned his back to Anunoby, the Raptors' forward made a strong cut towards the basket rather than standing still on the 3-point line. Siakam rewarded him by passing him the ball as soon as he got into the paint.
Reading the situation perfectly, Anunoby made a quick touch pass to Gasol when Bjelica stepped up, setting the Spaniard up for his first dunk of the season.
Why it matters: Anunody is driving a lot more this season. After Wednesday's game, he is now averaging 4.1 drives per game this season, up from 2.3 drives per game last season and 1.9 drives per game in 2017-18.
The bulk of those drives, however, have ended with Anunoby taking a shot. He rarely passes out of his drives, nevermind recording an assist on them.
That's not to say Anunoby is selfish. (He's shooting 60.0 percent on drives this season, the highest rate on the team. It's hard to critique that number). It's more about Anunoby doing things that we haven't seen from him before.
As Josh Lewenberg of TSN noted, he's been doing that a lot lately.
Over his last 6 games, OG Anunoby has set new career-highs in blocks (4 @ CHI), steals (5 vs ORL), assists twice (4 @ MIL, 5 and counting tonight vs SAC) and matched his career-high in rebounding 3 times (8 @ BOS, vs ORL, vs DET).- Josh Lewenberg (@JLew1050) November 7, 2019
If nothing else, Anunoby appears to be back on track following somewhat of a lost sophomore season, in which he missed 15 games, plus the entire postseason, due to a combination of injuries and personal reasons. He struggled to build off of a promising rookie campaign, when he emerged as the starting small forward on a 59-win Raptors team.
Not only is that player back, but he's also showing clear signs of him tapping further and further into the potential that made him such an intriguing prospect coming out of Indiana.
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