The Toronto Raptors have exercised the 2020-21 club option for $3.87 million on small forward OG Anunoby, the NBA team announced Friday.
It wasn’t a big surprise because the 6′, 8″ Anunoby is expected to step into a larger role with the team beyond being just a defensive-stopper. Seen as a serviceable player who lacks flash, Anunoby may soon show off his full range.
With great leaping ability, Anunoby can be a rebounder, scorer, shot-blocker and rim presence.
Big things are expected of the 22-year-old, who missed 15 regular-season games and all of the post-season due to health and personal issues.
Anunoby will make $2.28 million in 2019-20 and $3.87 million the following season, setting him up to potentially become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2021.
The former Indiana forward was selected in the first round of the NBA draft by Toronto in 2017, the 23rd player taken. At the time, it was seen as something of a steal.
The Raptors then signed him to a two-year, $3.6 million deal, and last October, the club exercised the $2.28 million option for this coming season.
Anunoby made his first career start on Nov. 14, 2017 against the Houston Rockets and finished the game with 16 points, two rebounds, one assist and one steal in just under 30 minutes.
Overall, as a rookie, Anunoby averaged 5.9 points, 2.5 rebounds and 0.7 assists as the club’s primary defender. He also hit 37% of his three-point attempts.
Last year was a forgettable one for Anunoby. He was dropped to the bench after Kawhi Leonard arrived and his overall shooting percentages dropped and he played only 67 games.
Not only did he deal with personal issues, but he had an emergency appendectomy after being diagnosed with acute appendicitis a day before the playoffs started.
Although much of the talk is of Pascal Siakam making the biggest jump for Toronto this season, some feel it’s Anunoby who has the biggest upside.
Anunoby was born in London, England, to Nigerian parents. His brother, Chigbo, bounced around a handful of NFL teams.
Raised in Jefferson City, Missouri, Anunoby grew up watching clips of Allen Iverson and Tracy McGrady and decided basketball was the sport for him. He said that baseball was too boring and football was too dangerous.
As a high school senior, he averaged 19.1 points and 8.6 rebounds and was named a finalist for Mr. Basketball in the state of Missouri.
In 2014, he chose to play for the Indiana Hoosiers. As a freshman in 2015-16, he averaged 4.9 points in 34 games.
In 2016, his life turned around at March Madness when he went from an undiscovered recruit to a sensation who was suddenly on everyone’s radar. For a time, he was seen as the key to Indiana’s national title hopes until the Hoosiers fell in the Sweet Sixteen to North Carolina.
Following the appendectomy last season, Anunoby said he didn’t start to get his energy back until mid-July. But he told reporters he is healthy and excited to be back playing.
Coach Nick Nurse said: “He’s going to have a great year.”
The Raptors will be challenged to repeat their NBA Championship without Leonard and Danny Green, who left as free agents. But Anunoby isn’t buying the argument that the Raptors will not be able to repeat.
“I think we are going to repeat,” he told NBA Canada. “We have a really good team, we believe in ourselves, and that’s all that matters.”
When the season starts, Kyle Lowry, Marc Gasol and Siakam will likely reprise their starting roles. Norm Powell and Anunoby would seemingly have the inside track on the next two positions.