Photo Credit -Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Hoosiers in the NBA: OG Anunoby Season in Review

The 2017-18 NBA season has ended for seven of the eight former Indiana Hoosiers that registered statistics in the league this year.  Today marks the seventh in a series of more in depth reviews of their respective seasons as we discuss former Hoosier phenom OG Anunoby.

That Ogugua “OG” Anunoby Jr. ever made it to Bloomington was something of a fluke.  You likely know the story.  Tom Crean was out recruiting some other guys when this unknown physical specimen that could defend with the best of them caught his eye.

Crean developed somewhat of a reputation for finding “diamonds in the rough” like Anunoby, who hails from Jefferson City, Missouri.  When he arrived on campus in 2015, he was still an unknown, lurking in the shadows of fellow class of 2015 recruits Thomas Bryant and Juwan Morgan.

And then things like this started happening…

Photo credit – USA Today

Even more than the spectacular dunks though, Anunoby wowed fans and scouts alike with his defense — and his short shorts of course.  His impressive length combined with uncanny instincts allowed him to regularly get into passing lanes and close out on shooters.

While he was still a relative unknown nationally towards the end of his freshman year, he was introduced to the basketball world in a Sweet 16 contest against Kentucky when he made several eye-catching plays, including a crucial late-game block on a 3-pointer by Jamal Murray.  The NBA discussions intensified immediately.

Anunoby came back to Indiana for what looked to be a big 2016-17 season for both him and the Hoosiers.  The Hoosiers were decent, but perhaps not living up to expectations when the unthinkable happened in January at Penn State.  Anunoby tore his ACL in his right knee and required surgery.  His season was over and his NBA dreams were on hold.

Despite the injury, Anunoby decided to enter the 2017 NBA Draft.  Once thought to be a likely lottery pick, concerns about his knee caused him to slip to the 23rd selection where he was taken by Toronto.

ANUNOBY’S 2017-18 SEASON

The Raptors entered the draft as a veteran team that could afford to take a bit of a risk and give Anunoby the time he needed to make a full recovery.  The healing process went much faster than expected.  Anunoby participated in an intrasquad scrimmage during training camp and went on to play in Toronto’s first game of the regular season.

He came off the bench for the first four weeks of the season.  By then he had shown enough and the Raptors were ready to insert him into the starting lineup.  That’s when head coach Dwane Casey broke the news:

“You got Harden”

The Raptors were scheduled to play Houston and their all-everything guard James Harden the next day.  That was Casey’s way of informing Anunoby that he’d been promoted into the starting lineup.  OG didn’t disappoint.  In his first start he hit 6-for-8 shots and 3 three-pointers for a career-high 16 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist and 1 steal in 30 minutes.

Games/Games Started: 74/62
Points – 5.9
Rebounds – 2.5
Assists – .7
Blocks – .2
Steals – .7
FG% – .471
3FG% – .371
FT% – .629

 

Anunoby put up his season highs in both points and rebounds in an April contest against Orlando, going for 21 and 8, respectively.  More than points and rebounds, Anunoby’s rookie season established him as a legitimate NBA defender that can guard multiple positions.  He also showed the ability to step out and knock down shots from the perimeter.

Much like his freshman season at Indiana, there have been flashes of brilliance, but this is only the beginning.

NBA PLAYOFFS

Anunoby got the added benefit of playing for the No. 1 seed in the Eastern conference and thus experiencing the NBA playoffs.  Unfortunately for him and Toronto, they became the first No. 1 seed to be swept before the 3rd round in 49 years when Cleveland eliminated them in round 2.

It wasn’t a total loss for Anunoby.  He bested his regular season statistical performance in several categories.  In 10 playoff games, he averaged 7.9 points and 23.8 minutes.  He had a huge Game 3 against Cleveland, scoring 18 points.  He also sank a key three-pointer with eight seconds left in that game to tie it up at 103.

His high-level playoff performance caught the eye of his coach.

“His confidence level, his maturity, his composure is huge for a rookie,” he added.

Casey called Anunoby’s offensive showing in the playoffs “a surprise and a good surprise.”

“Believe me, it’s going to play huge dividends down the road,” he added.

Anunoby also drew the assignment of guarding LeBron James for much of the series, and he was widely viewed as doing that job effectively.

“There’s nobody that’s going to stop James one-on-one but I think he’s making him work for every inch of the court and that’s what you’ve got to do,” Casey said after Game 3.

While James had a big series, most of his points were scored when someone else was guarding him.

WHAT’S NEXT

We could tell you what we think is next for OG Anunoby.  Instead, take it from the best basketball player in the world — the guy who had Anunoby glued to him for the better part of the last two weeks.

“I think he has a bright future. His future is now, actually,” — LeBron James

OG Anunoby has come so far in such a short period of time.  From unknown to being praised by the King.

At just 20 years old and still on a rocket trajectory, perhaps Anunoby will be King one day.  As a man of few words (at least with the media), wherever he ends up, he likely won’t have much to say about it.  No longer an unknown, the results will speak for themselves.

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