Amit Mann breaks down O.G. Anunoby's impressive defensive start to the season as an isolation and team defender and how he helps kickstart the Raptors' offence.
OG ANUNOBY: I've always wanted to be Defensive Player of the Year. I've always thought I was the best defender in the league. Thought that for the last I don't know how many years, but so--
AMIT MANN: Mr. "I don't shoot trying to miss" OG Anunoby has never lacked confidence in himself. So when he says he's always thought he was the best defender in the league, we shouldn't be surprised. And who knows if he is, but he's certainly showing a different gear on the defensive end and has been an absolute menace as a team-in-isolation defender.
He's averaging a career- and league-high 2.9 steals per game followed by a career-best 1.0 blocks per game. And the stats are great, but his imprint on every single game, every single possession, is what's telling. You can feel OG's 250-pound presence on defense.
In isolation, he's balancing his power, speedy lateral movement, and quick hands to hound guards on the perimeter and pick their pockets or block their shots into oblivion. OG's calculating the dribbling patterns of players and pouncing on the ball when it's time to go. And if there's a loose ball, he swarms. He accelerates, turns on the jets, and overpowers dudes to take command over the possession.
The Raptors want to get out in transition and let their plethora of athletic wings finish at the rim. And that's where OG's off-ball defense has been so valuable. He's a master at shrinking the floor on offenses, offering gap help to take away space, or conquering his role as a lone man within Toronto's defensive style to take away driving opportunities.
The Raptors' peel switching defense is intended to be controlled chaos where five guys are on a string, stunting and recovering to avoid allowing gaps, hedging to take a shot at steals, and discouraging drivers. And OG, he's a king at it. He's watching the eyes of ball-handlers, recovering for teammates where necessary, or anticipating where the ball's about to travel and hitting turbo to get the Raptors out and running.
- You know, he can be one of those guys, that, like, Defensive Player of the Year kind of guy. I think he has that ability. And his IQ on defense is [INAUDIBLE]. When he's locked in, you can see it.
He's-- every deflection, every-- he always feels like he can get the ball, or the ball just finds him. So I try to just tell him, man, like, you're special, in that sense. And if he really apply himself into it every single night, he can definitely be a nightmare for a lot of offensive players.
AMIT MANN: And if you are wondering about his transition defense, this play is all you gotta know. And let's be clear now. OG has been a great defender for years. And hopefully, within this team construct and some better injury luck, he gets acknowledged for his talents with, at the very least, an All-Defense recognition.
I'm Amit Mann. Follow me on Twitter at amit_mann. We'll talk to you soon.