After averaging just 10 minutes per game during his first 17 appearances last season, OG Anunoby became a more prominent part of Indiana’s rotation during the second half of the year and had a good game against Kentucky in the NCAA tournament, especially with his defense on eventual lottery pick Jamal Murray.
His physical profile (six-foot-eight, 235 pounds, rumored seven-foot-six wingspan) is elite for a wing prospect, especially considering he’s yet to turn 20 years old, and his work ethic has already become notorious.
Add all these elements and there are high expectations for Anunoby but he hasn’t taken a substantial leap forward this season. Other than a few post-ups here and there, Anunoby doesn’t get many opportunities as a shot creator against a set defense and his improvement as a shooter has been marginal. Whatever star potential he might have has not been made evident through the first 14 games.
But, aside from his combination of size and athleticism, Anunoby remains highly thought of (Draft Express currently ranks him ninth in its top 100) due to his defense. On that end of the floor, his potential as a difference making impact player has been a lot more tangible.
Anunoby’s top skill at this point of his development is his versatility.
He can switch onto smaller players – able to bend his knees to get low in a stance, shuffle his feet laterally to stay in front and contain dribble penetration through contact or keep pace with them stride-for-stride on straight line drives and use his length to contest shots at the basket.
And he can defend true big men regularly – using his physicality to front them and deny post entries, his strength to hold ground well enough to force them into trying to finish over his standing reach, and his toughness to box them out under the glass.
Another asset Anunoby brings to the table is his help defense.
He’s proven to have great instincts rotating off the weak-side with great timing and can make impact plays at the basket, as he’s able to elevate off two feet with vertical explosion and act as a legit shot blocking threat – averaging 2.1 blocks per 40 minutes this season, according to basketball-reference.
Anunoby has also been of help pitching in on the glass, collecting 15.6% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor. He spends some of his playing time as a big man on smaller lineups but for the most part two of Thomas Bryant, Juwan Morgan and De’Ron Davis are in the game together, so his defensive rebounding rate is good for a wing.
When he’s played as a big man, Anunoby got in a stance to guard the pick-and-roll and can keep up with dribble drivers and contest them at the goal but still has room to improve mastering the finer details of positional defense, such as walling off penetration and preventing them from getting into the lane.
Anunoby’s role on offense is as a weak-side threat, posting only a 20% usage rate so far this season.
He’s flashed some ability to move from a spot to another, set his feet quickly and pull the trigger off the catch with some ease but for the most part is not the sort of dynamic shooter who can come off screens or sprint to the ball for dribble-handoffs.
And even as a spot-up gunner, Anunoby is merely a capable open-shot shooter at this point of his development. He’s become a more confident shot taker, currently averaging 4.6 three-point shots per 40 minutes in comparison to just 2.5 last season, but nailed only a third of his 42 attempts so far.
His release is quite short and he lets the ball go from a low point, though the touch looks good and he can get decent arc regularly. But aside from the fact his mechanics aren’t textbook, another cause for concern regarding his development as a gunner is the fact Anunoby has shot 51.2% from the foul line in college.
Off the bounce, he does well on catch-and-go’s attacking closeouts or off ball reversals. Anunoby has some explosiveness on straight line drives, is able to maintain his balance through contact and can get up for strong finishes elevating out of one or two feet.
He’s also flashed some very appealing passing on the move, hitting outside shooters off simple drive-and-kick’s against a collapsing defense – assisting on 9.9% of Indiana’s scores when he’s the floor, though he’s also prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic – averaging 2.7 turnovers per 40 minutes, which is a lot for someone with his average usage rate.
As a shot creator, Indiana goes to him in the post some. Thanks to his strength, Anunoby can get clean seals below the foul line even against true big men and, in fact, seems to prefer posting up big men rather than wings he has a strength advantage on because his go-to move in the low block is facing up and trying to get around his defender on short drives.
Once he does, Anunoby is converting his shots at the basket at a 77.2% clip this season, according to hoop-math. Some of this proficiency is related to his ability to play above the rim as a target for lobs cutting to the basket or in transition and also due to his seven putback baskets. But 55.5% of his 44 field goals at the rim have been unassisted and most of it has to do with his ability to finish through contact out of these post-ups.
In the few instances he’s attempted to create offense from the perimeter, Anunoby hasn’t shown anything in terms of dribble moves to get by his defender or shake him off balance in isolation, his mid-range jumper is virtually non-existent as of now and he didn’t run any middle high pick-and-roll in the five most prominent games Indiana played this season.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara