Title: Raptors’ summer experimentation gives Anunoby free rein as playmaker
Date: September 28, 2018
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic, I wrote about the Raptors giving OG Anunoby the freedom to make mistakes all summer and what that might mean for a sophomore bump on the offensive end.
It was a remarkably stark contrast, with good intention: OG Anunoby, the Toronto Raptors’ hyper-low-usage rookie being given the keys to the team’s offence at Las Vegas Summer League. Here was Anunoby, who subsisted almost entirely off of spot-up threes and back-door cuts last season, initiating pick-and-rolls, isolating defenders, and busting out spin moves to get to the rim. It was new, it was different, and, to be completely honest, at times a little awkward.
This was the point, though. After slipping to the Raptors in the draft following surgery to repair a torn ACL, Anunoby missed the bulk of his first professional offseason. In Vegas the summer prior, he’d been relegated to set shooting and not much else. That certainly paid dividends from beyond the arc, but with Anunoby’s offensive game needing plenty of fine-tuning and the Raptors’ player development incubator having so much success that it felt like a missed opportunity. That’s the cost of landing an injured player at a discount on draft night.
Once Anunoby was healthy enough to play — for opening night, surprising many — there wasn’t going to be a ton of opportunity to learn on the fly. The Raptors have done about as well as any team could balancing a win-now timeline while also bringing along their young players, and they leaned on tremendous depth last year, empowering several young players to contribute in big roles (11 different Raptors played 1,000 minutes or more, seven of them in their age 25 season or younger). Playing time was available. For Anunoby, who quickly found his way into the starting lineup as the fifth option, chances to expand his offensive profile were not.