Toronto Raptors

The numbers behind Toronto Raptors forward OG Anunoby's breakout season

It's been a rollercoaster of a season for the Toronto Raptors, but OG Anunoby has been one of the team's bright spots.

After signing a four-year, $72 million extension with the Raptors in the offseason, Anunoby is averaging career-highs across the board of 14.8 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.6 steals per game. He might not be one of the leading candidates for the Most Improved Player award - not only is it a crowded field again this season, Anunoby has been limited to 37 games because of injuries - but it shouldn't take away from the leap he has made, particularly on offence.

For more on that leap, a closer look at four key numbers behind Anunoby's breakout season...

41.8: Anunoby's shooting percentage on catch-and-shoot 3s

Let's start here.

Catch-and-shoot 3s have always made up the bulk of Anunoby's field goal attempts, but he's never taken this many (5.1 per game) and converted them at this high of a rate (41.8 percent).

The combination actually has him rubbing shoulders with some of the league's best 3-point shooters this season.

According to NBA.com, Anunoby is one of only 15 players currently taking at least 5.0 catch-and-shoot 3s per game while knocking them down at a 40.0 percent clip. You've probably heard of many of the other players on that list: Joe Harris, Stephen Curry, Danny Green and Duncan Robinson, to name a few.

There's still room for Anunoby to grow - he's still mostly a spot-up threat - but he continues to trend upwards as a 3-point shooter.

Something to watch in Toronto's remaining games: Anunoby has attempted a career-high 25 pull-up 3s this season, 15 of which have come since the All-Star break. He's only connected on three of those 15 attempts, but becoming a more confident shooter off the dribble will only help him and the Raptors in the long run.

4.6: How many drives per game Anunoby is averaging

It's the highest mark of his career.

As a rookie, Anunoby averaged 1.9 drives per game. As a sophomore, that number increased ever-so-slightly to 2.3 drives per game. He then averaged 3.5 drives per game last season, followed by 4.6 drives per game so far this season.

Most encouraging of all? Anunoby's shooting efficiency has also increased a significant amount.

OG Anunoby continues to improve as a driver
Season Drives Per Game FG%
2017-18 1.9 44.7
2018-19 2.3 45.7
2019-20 3.5 48.5
2020-21 4.6 54.1

As I've written before, being able to make plays for himself off the dribble helps Anunoby punish defenders for running him off the 3-point line, where almost half (48.4 percent) of his shot attempts have come from in his career, but the Raptors have given him more opportunities to create for himself this season. According to NBA.com, he's already run more isolations (33) and pick-and-rolls (42) through 37 games this season than he did in 69 games last season.

He's still far more of a finisher than a creator, but it's hard not to get excited when you see him do things like this:

He hasn't been an efficient scorer out of the post, but I continue to be intrigued by his potential as a scorer out of the low block, particularly when he faces-up.

Anunoby's development on-ball even caught the attention of one of his former teammates.

"He started out stiff as a cardboard box," DeMar DeRozan said of Anunoby recently. "Now to see how he handles the ball, how he drives the ball, his post game.

"I saw him a lot this summer, we worked out a lot, and to see his skill set grow from where I first saw it speaks volumes."

8: How many 20-point games Anunoby has

Anunoby's improvements as a 3-point shooter and driver have helped him score 20 or more points in eight games this season.

Once again, that marks a career high. In fact, Anunoby had a total of 10 20-point games in the first three seasons of his career combined.

Anunoby's highest scoring game of the season came on Jan. 24, when he led the Raptors to a victory over the Indiana Pacers with 30 points on 9-for-16 shooting from the field, 4-for-6 from 3-point range and 8-for-10 from the free throw line.

Anunoby suffered a calf strain the next game that sidelined him for 10 games. He then missed six more games not long after due to the NBA's Health and Safety Protocols, but he's found his stride since returning, having scored double-figures in 13 of his last 14 outings, including four 20-point games.

It sets Anunoby up for a strong finish to the season, regardless of whether or not the Raptors make the Play-In Tournament.

92.4: Anunoby's defensive versatility rating

The BBall Index has a cool stat called Defensive Versatility Rating, which uses the NBA's tracking data to calculate how often players spend guarding different positions.

According to them, Anunoby has spent 18.8 percent of his minutes matched up with point guards, 17.5 percent matched up with shooting guards, 19.4 percent matched up with small forwards, 26.3 percent matched up with power forwards and 18.0 percent matched up with centres this season, the combination of which gives him a defensive versatility rating of 92.4.

Why is that notable? Only once since 2013-14, which is as far back as the tracking data goes, has a player had a higher defensive versatility rating than Anunoby this season. That player: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who posted a defensive versatility rating of 94.2 when he was with the Raptors last season.

A high defensive versatility rating doesn't necessarily mean a player is an elite defender - for what it's worth, James Harden's defensive versatility rating this season (90.8) is the fourth-highest on record - but Anunoby is quite clearly an All-Defence calibre of defender. In addition to being one of only a few players who can legitimately guard every position, he's a disruptive defender, ranking among the league leaders with 1.6 steals per game and 3.1 deflections per game this season, both of which are career highs.

The on/off numbers are far from perfect, but it's telling that the Raptors have been 3.4 points per 100 possessions better defensively with Anunoby in the lineup this season.

Click here if you want to get lost in Anunoby's incredible defensive versatility with me.

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