Trade season is upon us, folks! We are about one week away from the deadline which means there will be a nauseating amount of rumors, trade ideas, and conversations surrounding some of the hottest commodities on the chopping block this season. And while there isn’t a big-name star on the market right now that teams can clamor over, there is one player who has 29 teams salivating at the thought of trading for him: Toronto Raptors forward O.G Anunoby.
The 25-year-old has spent all of his years in the NBA up north (or for me and anyone else who lives in Toronto, right here) and has developed into one of the premier defenders in all of professional basketball. With the Raptors slumping, currently sitting at 23-30 and 12th in the Eastern Conference, many have pondered whether it’s time for Toronto to re-arrange their deck; retool, rebuild, or any other word that has “re” in front of it. That has helped bring Anunoby to the forefront who, according to multiple reports, has grown frustrated with his role on the team and is expected to be up for a big payday in the summer of 2024 when he can opt out of the final year of his deal worth just under $20 million. Multiple teams have been mentioned as potential suitors for Anunoby: the Grizzlies, Suns, Knicks, Pelicans, Lakers, Pacers, and just about any team in the league willing to pay the Raptors’ asking price of multiple picks and/or young prospects.
There are Anunoby believers and then there are those who say that the Raptors asking price is outrageous.
This brings us to the question at hand: What is Anunoby’s true value?
On one end, you can argue that Anunoby is a young, developing player who has shown flashes on offense that resemble that of a potential All-Star who comes pre-packaged with versatility as a defender, with his massive frame, long wingspan, and agility that help him guard an array of archetypes in the modern NBA.
On the other, Anunoby has never been an All-Star (and doesn’t have an All-Defense selection for that matter). He’s battled with some unlucky injuries and hasn’t played more than 50 games in his last 2 seasons.
But assessing ‘value’ isn’t as simple as just stating the surface-level facts about a player. Let’s dig deeper, and hopefully help contextualize why the Raptors hold Anunoby in such high regard.
The main selling point for the 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a reported 250lb frame is his top-of-the-line defense. Anunoby is a rare type of 3-n-D wing. He’s not only capable of being the primary defender on your prototypical wing stars like Jayson Tatum, Kevin Durant, or LeBron James but he’s also able to guard up and down just as proficiently. The Raptors’ primary defender for Nikola Jokic? Anunoby. The Raptors’ primary defender for Donovan Mitchell? Anunoby. The Raptors’ primary defender for Giannis? You guessed it, Anunoby.
O.G. helps plug holes in an astonishing way for the Raptors’ defense and does so with his out-of-this-world versatility. He consistently ranks near the top of the league in B-Ball indexes matchup versatility metric, which matches the eye test. The Raptors are nearly 4 points per 100 possessions better on defense when Anunoby plays, by far the best mark among Toronto’s starters. Earlier this season, Anunoby was getting some much-deserved DPOY love as a steal machine (still leads the league in that category), and constantly ranks near the top when it comes to deflections, also.
You don’t really have to sell anyone on the fact that Anunoby is a top-tier defender, possibly in a class of his own when it comes to the plethora of positions he can guard at a high level.
Why hasn’t that amounted to an All-defense nod? Primarily, availability. We’ll get to that later.
A lot of times players just get labeled as ‘3-n-D’ without completing both sides of the bargain. Anunoby isn’t one of those players.
For his career, he’s a 37% 3-point shooter on decent volume and has even had 2 seasons where he’s almost cracked 40%. He is, admittedly, having a down year on that end this season, hitting only 36% of his threes on over 5 attempts a game, but his track record shows that he has the propensity and capability to knock down threes at a consistent rate. He attempts the second-most catch-and-shoot threes on the Raptors (only behind Gary Trent Jr this year) and has knocked down 40% of them over the last 3 seasons.
Not only is he elite in the ‘D’ category of 3-n-D but he more than fulfills his obligations on the offensive end as well, as a floor spacer.