Title: OG Anunoby’s usage and versatility suggest he could be Raptors’ playoff stopper
Date: July 23, 2020
Original Source: The Athletic
Synopsis: In my latest for The Athletic Toronto, I wrote about OG Anunoby’s growth as a defender and the stopper role he’s likely to play for the Raptors in the playoffs.
With their backs against the wall down 2-0 to the Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors head coach Nick Nurse made the move that, heading in, we thought could define the series: He put Kawhi Leonard, maybe the best one-on-one defender in the world when locked in, on Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was nightmare fuel for Antetokounmpo and a series changer for Toronto — Antetokounmpo’s scoring and passing dropped from 27 points and 1.5 assists over games 1 and 2 to 20.5 (less efficiently) and one over games 3-6. The Raptors, you may recall, won the last four games of the series.
As the Raptors set out to try to repeat as champions here in 2019-20, Nurse won’t have the luxury of calling on a Leonard adjustment when things get dire. Over the course of the season, that has presented itself as far more of an offensive problem than a defensive one, which was to be expected. With the personnel on the roster and the system in place, it was always going to be a little easier to maintain a defensive floor than it was going to be to replace 30 percent of offensive possessions at high efficiency. We’ve seen the Raptors defend well over the regular season and then struggle against stars in the playoffs in the past, though, and Leonard’s absence in contrast with the league’s No. 2-ranked defence poses an important question: Who is Nurse’s go-to stopper when it matters most?
OG Anunoby’s growth this season suggests he’s ready for that prime-time defensive role.