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Somehow, OG Anunoby is playing elite offense

Don’t ask me how though, because I can’t explain it.

NBA: Toronto Raptors at New York Knicks Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

Whilst performing very important and incredibly sophisticated fantasy basketball research, I discovered that OG Anunoby, Toronto’s rookie, is 6th in the entire NBA in offensive rating (of players who average at least 20 minutes per game) at 114.5. James Harden is fifth at 114.9. The top 10 in offensive rating consists entirely of Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, and...OG Anunoby. He is the only player in the top 12 from the Eastern Conference.

OG is also 29th in defensive rating at 102, tied with Sergeant Russell Westbrook. Victor Oladipo, who is a terror on defense, has a 103 defensive rating, as does Paul George, another elite defender.

And, thus and so, Anunoby is third overall in net rating. Here’s the top 10:

  1. Steph Curry
  2. Draymond Green
  3. OG Anunoby
  4. Klay Thompson
  5. Eric Gordon
  6. Kevin Durant
  7. Luc Mbah a Moute
  8. Milos Teodosic
  9. Chris Paul
  10. PJ Tucker

Nice list to be on, no? OG’s season line isn’t impressive (6.3 points per game on 46% shooting, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.8 assists, with 1.1 3PM per game), and his PER is only 9.82 (15 is average). So, what gives? I looked at a bunch of numbers, including on/off, and I still don’t really get it. Does anyone out there have any ideas for why OG’s rating is so high? I confess to being confused.

He seems to be a highly efficient player who picks his battles (he has a true shooting percentage of 58.9%), but only rarely: he takes the 10th most shots on the Raptors, fewer even than Pascal Siakam, and Siakam doesn’t start. Toronto attempts the most threes when OG’s on the court, for what that’s worth, and they average the most free throws. But, again: dude’s shooting less than Pascal Siakam and OG averages a little less than one foul shot per game, so it’s not like he’s living at the line. The Raptors seem to get more offensive rebounds when OG’s in the game, which could be a function of spacing, I suppose, combined with OG’s length and wingspan?

OG is 66th in ESPN’s Real Plus-Minus. And, he doesn’t score well in PER or Value Added or Estimated Wins Added.

Anunoby isn’t rosterable in fantasy unless you’re hanging on to him long-term in a dynasty league (as I am; and, yup, I’m super duper excited about it because he looks GREAT). But, if you’re in a dynasty league and you’ve an open roster spot, you should give OG a chance. His shot will develop over the next few years (fingers crossed!), but until then I have absolutely no idea why he gets so much love from the ratings. Could it be that Toronto just plays really damn hard and well when he’s on the court? Is he a secret engine guy, a player who is so athletic and plays so hard that he allows the other players on the court to focus more on their offense? Toronto’s lineup of Kyle Lowry, DeMar DeChozan, OG, Serge Ibaka, and Jonas Valanciunas has basically the same plus-minus as the Wizards lineup of John Wall, Bradley Beal, Otto Porter, Jr., Kelly Oubre, Jr., and Marcin Gortat (14th and 15th in plus-minus in the NBA, respectively), which, as readers of this space know, is one of my favorite lineups in the NBA. I anticipate seeing a LOT of that in the playoffs.

Alas, I remain befuddled. If anyone can enlighten us, please do so. If I had to guess, I’d say that it’s a bit of an accident, and his rating is dependent on a very strong and efficient Raptors starting lineup, and the fact that he doesn’t play too much without DeChozan also being on the floor.

Regardless, this is one of those players whose stats, advanced and otherwise, don’t really tell the whole tale. They basically say that he sucks (aside from the offensive and defensive ratings). But, when you watch OG Anunoby play, and when you see how well he fits into that Raptors team, you understand: he may not be flashy but he gets the job done. He plays with a high IQ and elite athleticism. He looks like a guy that will be able to defend the best wings in the game in a few years (watching him in the playoffs this year will be fascinating; Toronto stomped Cleveland in their only meeting so far this season, 133-99). If Anunoby’s shot develops, he could literally turn into one of the best players in the Eastern Conference. Maybe that’s what his net rating is trying to tell us. (By the way: “Net Rating” is a great band name, or title for a basketball analytics pod.)

Great goddamn pick by Masai Ujiri. I love the Raptors. We the North, for real.