As the dust settles from the Toronto Raptors' first championship, we're rolling out our Raptors Report Cards on each key member of the team from this past season. Before turning the page into the 2019-20 season as free agency begins, we'll take a closer look back at how everyone performed in 2018-19.
OG Anunoby's second NBA season was filled with ups and downs, to say the least.
After starting in all 10 of the Raptors' postseason games as a rookie, Anunoby took on a different role ahead of the 2018-19 season as Toronto implemented new addition Kawhi Leonard into the starting unit alongside Pascal Siakam, whose emergence made him a no-brainer to start at the 4.
Year 2 in the NBA is difficult as is, but the challenges became even steeper for Anunoby once you factor in his need to accept and adjust to a role that he had worked to become comfortable in as a rookie.
In addition to adopting a new role, Anunoby missed time with the team early on in the season to deal with family-related issues much more important than basketball.
MORE GRADES: Kawhi Leonard | Kyle Lowry | Pascal Siakam | Nick Nurse
Despite the challenges, Anunoby showed growth, flashes of excellence and potential for the future, improving his scoring average from 5.9 points per game as a rookie to 7.0 points per game as a sophomore while essentially playing the same amount of time (~20 minutes per game).
Toronto was 13-2 in the 15 games that Anunoby scored in double digits, including his career-high 22-point (on 9-for-14 shooting) performance in a Feb. 13 win over the Wizards while Leonard rested.
OG Anunoby finished with a career-high 22 PTS, knocked down 4 3PT and grabbed 5 REB in the @Raptors win over the @WashWizards!#WeTheNorth pic.twitter.com/LpX7zag03N- NBA Canada (@NBACanada) February 14, 2019
OG's play through his first 48 games of the season earned him a spot on Team World at the 2019 Rising Stars Challenge after he was left off the roster his rookie season, an impressive honour and accomplishment given the challenges that were thrown his way.
Just as things began to look up, Anunoby suffered a concussion in late March that sidelined him for four of the Raptors' final seven regular-season tune-ups ahead of the postseason. He would return for the final week of the season, scoring nine points in the finale as he looked prepared to make his second playoff run in the league, but adversity would strike once again.
One day before the Raptors opened the 2019 postseason against the Orlando Magic, it was announced that Anunoby had undergone an emergency appendectomy that would sideline him for at least two weeks.
It was again deeper than basketball, as Anunoby's health became the main concern of the organization. On the basketball side of things, the Raptors clearly felt his absence as the team's rotation was effectively shortened to just eight players and his size and ability as a perimeter defender was sorely missed.
While it was initially believed to be a two-week recovery, Anunoby was cleared seven weeks after his procedure - Game 2 of the NBA Finals.
His presence was missed, but the Raptors had found ways to win without him up to that point and the Finals stage was quite possibly the least ideal to try to reincorporate a second-year player who had not played in nearly two months; he would sit as the Raptors clawed to win the first title in franchise history.
Still, without him appearing in a single minute of action in Toronto's best postseason run to date, there's no doubt that OG has a large place within the framework of this team's future.
Leonard's free agency decision looms and in many ways, affects the trajectory of Anunoby's future.
Should Kawhi stay, he could serve as the perfect mentor and example for a young player of OG's calibre. Anunoby could learn more about developing into a two-way player, using his physical tools to continue to improve as a defender while working to develop his offensive game.
If Kawhi were to depart, Anunoby would conceivably be the most logical replacement at the small forward position, accelerating a pseudo-rebuild as the face of the franchise's future alongside 2019 Most Improved Player Pascal Siakam.
In either case, Anunoby has done more than enough to show how much potential he has and the Raptors coaching staff has continued to outdo themselves from a player development standpoint.
As he'll be just 22-years-old next season, Anunoby is still in a great spot to turn the corner and become an even more solid player in Year 3. It's no fault of his own but unfortunate circumstances prevented us from seeing all that OG could bring to the table this past year.
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