Title: Has rookie OG Anunoby made a case for inclusion in the Raptors’ starting lineup?
Date: November 15, 2017
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about OG Anunoby’s first career start and whether that might prove a long-term fit for the Raptors.
Ever since Vince Carter was traded in the middle of the 2004-05 season, the Toronto Raptors have employed a rotating cast of small forwards. The carousel at that starting position has been remarkable. When Norman Powell drew the opening-night start this year, he became the 14th different small forward to start for the Raptors in the last 15 seasons. Draft picks, free agent signings, trade acquisitions and internal promotions have largely been unable to lock the position down for longer than a few weeks or, maybe, months.
Ahead of schedule, OG Anunoby is doing his best to suggest that the conveyer belt is coming to a stop. With Powell sidelined with a right hip pointer Tuesday, Anunoby drew the start against the Houston Rockets. While the Raptors coaching staff won’t use a one-game sample to dictate the future of their starting lineup, Anunoby did everything he could to look like a potential solution.
To wit, Anunoby had a team-best plus-22 in 30 minutes, playing a major role in perhaps the team’s best win of the season, a 129-113 victory against a team that came in winners of six in a row. He scored a career-high 16 points on 6-of-8 shooting, helped the starters to a rare plus-4 marker in nine minutes as a group, and was a part of a closing lineup that sealed the tough road win.
Most notably, Anunoby was the primary defender on Harden for 12 possessions. Of those, Harden scored on just one, a savvy baiting of an and-one from behind the 3-point line as Anunoby jabbed at the ball and Harden expertly started his shooting motion in response. Anunoby fouled Harden on another possession, as well, and Harden scored against Anunoby in transition once.