How OG Anunoby, Raptors can expand his offensive role

Amit Mann discusses how OG Anunoby can increase his offensive production and what he needs from his teammates and coaching staff to become a higher usage player.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: So OG Anunoby wants a bigger offensive role, at least that's what's being reported. And the context around that is really important. Was it OG Anunoby going to Raptors management and saying, I'm not happy with how things are right now? Or was it OG and Raptors management, Nick, Bobby, and Masai, sitting down at the end of the season and they talk about the season that was, and they look forward toward the future? And OG says, it'd be cool if I got more shots.

Whatever it was-- and you may feel differently-- I'm OK with OG Anunoby expressing that. I mean, at 25 years old, he is far from a finished product. And you want players to have drive and ambition and more for themselves. It would actually be concerning if he was like, you know, I'm cool just being a catch-and-shoot guy, a versatile defender, and someone who's got a little bit of self-creation upside. That would be a problem.

He's got a player option for the 2024-2025 season where he's going to opt out. And at that moment, you'd think he'd want to be a $25 million player, a $30 million player. He's already on one of the best contracts in the NBA. He's going to want his payday. And how do you do that? He's got to show his offensive upside.

But what does that look like for the Toronto Raptors next season? I mean, you got Pascal Siakam, who is on the verge of becoming a legit number one. You've got Scottie Barnes, who is your future cornerstone. You got Precious. You got Gary. You got Fred VanVleet, who is hoping to return to his all-star form after being injured for pretty much the entire second half of the season. How does OG Anunoby get his touches? Let's discuss that.

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I look at it like this. There are things that OG can do, there are things that his teammates can do, and there are things that Nick Nurse can do. First, for OG, he's got to look at the grand scheme of the Raptors offense and what their goals are. Within the margins, there are ways he can get more consistent possession by possession to find more ways for himself to get offense.

And what I'm talking about is leaking out in transition and getting early post-ups. Scottie Barnes is really good at this. And granted, with OG, he's going to be guarding the other team's best player. The Raptors are really bad when it comes to defensive rebounding. They're worst in the NBA. But there are ways that he can affect the game and get early post-ups and mismatches, bigger players, smaller players. And he'll be able to operate in space.

Transition basketball is not going away for the Toronto Raptors. It's a great way to create mismatches in early possessions and to get the other team scrambling a little bit. OG can utilize that and find himself some easy offense. But when we do get in the halfcourt, OG Anunoby could probably offensive rebound more. Now obviously as a floor spacer, a corner 3-point shooter, he is very good at it.

He shot 47% on corner 3's last season. That is in the 85th percentile among players at his position, so that is obviously not going away. That is important. But if he's able to anticipate balls a little bit better, if he's able to find ways to get in the lane, he's going to be able to get some put-backs or get the ball, reset, go one on one, do your thing there too.

Also, OG Anunoby shot 55% at the rim last season. Pascal Siakam was at 65. Scottie Barnes was at 71. So if OG is able to get a little bit stronger in the paint with his jump hooks, with his floaters, with his finishing through contact, he's probably going to be able to improve his points per game average. And it's going to help him feel a little bit more satisfied with his role in the offense.

On to his teammates. And OG has some strides to make as a shot creator, shot maker, and ball handler. Don't get me wrong, that exists. But because his other teammates weren't very good 3-point shooters, he had to be planted in the corner to hit shots. Because if he was not there, they were not going to have a very pretty halfcourt offense. That is just the reality of it. They were 28th in 3-point percentage after the all-star break, and I shudder to think what that would have been if Precious Achiuwa didn't go on fire from beyond the arc.

- Quickly into the front court. And a transition 3 from Precious Achiuwa!

AMIT MANN: Because Pascal Siakam, Scottie Barnes, Thaddeus Young, and Chris Boucher and so forth weren't deep threats other teams worried about, OG had to be a spacer. Otherwise, we would have seen exactly what we saw in the second half of game 6 versus the 76ers where Philly completely disregarded several Raptors players and loaded the paint to minimize Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, and whoever else could put pressure on the paint.

So if rotation players can level up their consistency, it is going to create more chances for OG getting to the teeth of the defense and be more of a primary offensive role. And why adding a knockdown shooter like Otto Porter Jr. was such a great pickup for the Raptors. He's an instant fit, and he's going to give more space for Scottie and Pascal and OG to create in the halfcourt.

Moving to Nick Nurse and the Raptors coaching staff. You look at the Raptors offense, and probably OG and Gary are the ones who are going to be taking a back seat in terms of being able to do more and having upside as offensive creators. Because you got Pascal Siakam. He's going to get his. Scottie Barnes is going to be playing point guard. He's going to get his possessions.

And Fred VanVleet has already said he's willing to take a back seat as an offensive player, and we saw the toll it took on him being a high-usage player. We didn't see him for most of the second half of the season, or at least he wasn't very healthy, so that probably could be best for the Raptors. And he is great as a catch-and-shoot player. So factoring all that in, I'd like to see Nick Nurse experiment just a little bit with OG Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. as primary options on the court, along with some shooters.

You add in Otto Porter Jr, Chris Boucher, and the fifth person could be whoever makes sense. It could be a center. It could be Khem Birch. It could be Thad Young, Precious. It could be another ball handler, although I hope Gary Trent Jr. and OG Anunoby are becoming better ball handlers as we speak. But if they're not, you can put out a point guard, center, whatever you want to do. It's going to come down to the matchups and who you're going to be facing.

I'm going to assume the Raptors are going to have the exact same starting lineup as last season when they were healthy, so Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Scottie Barnes, and Gary Trent Jr. Maybe at the end of first quarters and third quarters, you could run some time with OG Anunoby and a few other players, like I mentioned earlier, Chris Boucher, Otto Porter Jr., and whatever makes sense in terms of matchups, and they get their time to cook. It's their cooking time.

That's reserved for them to be primary options in the offense. You got shooters around them to put them in a better position to be successful. And really, it's not a bad thing for the Raptors to try and develop OG and Gary as decision makers, ball handlers, scorers. Because once playoff time comes around, it's within the margins. There's like four or five-minute stretches in games that can really kill you.

We know their starting lineup is going to be, obviously, pivotal to their success. But if they have another four-man unit or something like that they can throw out there that they're confident with, it's going to help them feel a little bit better about those non-starter minutes. You're developing Gary and OG's decision making and scoring potential through guaranteed minutes of freedom while shoring up potential hazardous postseason phases of the game.

Finally, I think you'd agree that the Raptors halfcourt offense can be a little bit stagnant sometimes, a little bit isolation-heavy. Now they've had success with it, and that does have a place in postseason basketball. When you got the horses who can do it or mismatches, you may as well use them. However, it might be time to add some new wrinkles.

Mind you, last season with this new vision, the Raptors had multiple players learning multiple positions. That means multiple plays. And that can be a real tailspin for a lot of players. Even an NBA vet like Thad Young said it was a tough transition for him, and he's been in the league for eons. But now Toronto has essentially the same core and a season under their belt under this new vision, so it's time to mix it up a little bit.

Starting with some cross screens where players on each block screen for each other, and it leads to a post-up attempt. Now Toronto could work this into their weave to create more deception and keep the defense on their toes and utilize their array of post-up threats. Or how about more side clearing? Again, this is where some growth from a few players in their 3-point shooting is needed so OG can be a primary option here.

They could run the Barkley post-up where a side is cleared, OG gets a handoff and can use a head of steam to get close to the paint, and he can go to work with space around him. And the Raptors could add some off-ball stagger screens to keep the defense guessing. OG, as a screener, is again a great way to engage his strength to open up scoring chances for himself where he can roll, slip, and do fake handoffs and create more paint pressure, which Toronto's halfcourt offense is desperately needing.

These are just a few examples. But overall, it's more body movement, more plays, more actions, and better collective 3-point shooting. That is going to help unlock OG Anunoby. Well, that is that. My name's Amit Mann. You can find me on Twitter, @Amit_Mann. If you enjoyed the video, like it, subscribe to our YouTube channel for more Raptors content. We will talk to you soon.