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OG Anunoby’s defense has elevated him among fantasy basketball’s elites

OG Anunoby has been a top 50 fantasy player this year but isn’t being rostered as one.

USA Today/Pete Rogers Illustrations

We all know the old adage “defense wins championships” and while that may still be true in actual basketball, it’s certainly true in fantasy basketball. With steals and blocks counting for the most fantasy points, players who can reliably get you stocks (steals plus blocks) instantly become hot fantasy commodities. It’s the reason players like Robert Covington and Marcus Smart are always top 100 fantasy options.

It’s also the reason why OG Anunoby has been a top 50 fantasy player this year.

Now, Anunoby being a reliable fantasy option this year isn’t the surprise. Last year he averaged 10.6 PPG/5.3 RPG/1.6 APG/2.1 StPG, numbers that had him finishing in the top 100 per ESPN’s player rater. And this year, he was rightfully drafted as a top 100 player in re-draft leagues, so it’s not as though he’s come out of nowhere to be a top fantasy option. However, I’m not sure the average fan has quite clicked into just how good Anunoby as been this year in fantasy hoops. After all, he is still rostered in less than 75% of ESPN leagues.

Maybe it’s because expectations heading into the season were for OG’s teammate Pascal Siakam to be the primary fantasy star of the Toronto Raptors. Siakam was drafted as a top 30 player in re-draft leagues this year and is currently rostered in 99% of ESPN leagues. Maybe the stink of Siakam, much like the Raptors themselves, not living up to expectations has dissuade fantasy managers from Anunoby.

Maybe it’s because when you look at any of Anunoby’s scoring stats individually, they don’t particularly wow you. With a large increase in minutes (35 per game this year compared to 29.9 last year), Anunoby averaging career highs in points per game (13.4), shots per game (10.1), and three-point attempts per game (5.9) while still keeping his true shooting percentage hovering around 60% — 59.8% to be exact. He’s also averaging career high in rebounds (5.9) and matching his high in assists (1.6).

Thirteen plus points per game isn’t exactly Earth-shattering and 13.4/5.9 is a stat line 45 other players in the NBA are averaging.

What has set OG apart this year in terms of fantasy production has been his defense. After flashing his potential last year with 1.4 steals per game, Anunoby has taken his on-ball defense the next step, averaging two steals and 0.6 blocks per game (2.6 stocks). Only three other players in the league are averaging more stocks per game: Larry Nance Jr. (who’s averaging a league leading 2.5 steals per game), Jimmy Butler, and Kawhi Leonard. That’s it. That’s the list.

Anunoby’s elite defense, paired with a solid offensive game, makes him a top notch fantasy player, and we’ve seen that on full display to start the new year. Over the last two weeks, Anunoby has been the 19th best player in ESPN’s player rater. Over the last week, he’s been top 10.

If he’s available in your league, add him. If he’s sitting on a league-mate’s bench, trade for him. His production so far has more than proven OG Anunoby should be considered among this season’s fantasy basketball elites.