The Case for OG Anunoby
Like most Wolves’ fans and pundits, I’ve been on the Jonathan Isaac bandwagon for quite some time now. His unique blend of height, athleticism, defensive versatility, and offensive potential have had me drooling and daydreaming for the last couple of months. Although he will be more of a project than a player who is ready to step up and contribute right away in the NBA, his skillset (projected and already solidified) is nearly perfect for jamming up some of the holes in the Wolves roster. High upside defensive ability? Check. Stretchability at the four? Check. Veteran presence? Well, this about the only area he doesn’t check off.
But what happens if Isaac is off the board when the Wolves make their selection at pick number 7? As I argued for in a recent discussion with William Bohl, I believe it would be wise and prudent of the Wolves to keep the pick or, at the very worst, trade down a few spots. This draft is rich with talent and passing up the opportunity to make a selection, even if it’s in the 10-15 range, could manifest as a mistake in the not so distant future.
One player that I think the Wolves should think long and hard about taking (again, this is assuming Jonathan Isaac has already been swept away by another team) is OG Anunoby, a sophomore out of Indiana University.
Anunoby, who is in the process of recovering from ACL reconstruction after injuring his knee in mid-January, is a physical specimen. He was measured at the NBA Draft Combine as being nearly 6’8” and 232 pounds, which is solid size for a bigger three or smaller four, but perhaps the most appealing aspect of his body is his freakishly long arms. His 7’2” wingspan, in combination with his size, strength, and quickness, allowed him to guard three through five with ease at Indiana. It has even been suggested that he may be able to defend every position when he’s at his peak in the NBA. Although he projects to be a three, his physical tools may make him nearly positionless, theoretically being able to switch between the two, three, four, and five on both sides of the ball (realistically, he’d probably function best as a small-ball four). Anunoby racked up 1.3 blocks and 1.3 steals in 25.1 minutes per game (which equates to 1.9 per 36) this past season before his knee injury.
But for as strong and projectable on defense as Anunoby is, he’s almost equally a question mark on offense. His three-point shot is unproven (36.5% on a measly 74 attempts in 50 games while taking classes in Bloomington), and his handle is weak as well. Jonathan Givony, the mastermind at DraftExpress, notes that his jump shot is “somewhat stiff with a slight, variable hop and fade that hurts his balance” and that “he tends to guide the ball at times…shooting it with a rigid elbow, low release, and very little arc.” However, in a rather small sample size, Anunoby converted on nearly 72% of his 74 attempts around the rim last season. If he is able to convert at the rim at a high rate, his inability to be consistent from deep may be mitigated to an extent.
I recently spoke to a person who covered Anunoby during his time at Indiana and he had nothing but glowing things to say about his work ethic and character. “Work ethic was the best of any IU player I’ve seen [recently]. Teammates loved playing with him. [His] personality is one of a kind. One of the few players I saw who would chat up ushers and security guards; always gracious and willing to take pictures with fans.”
The best way to depict how highly I view Anunoby is by comparing him to Jonathan Isaac, which I will do the way any normal, rational person would: by using bell curves. Picture, if you will, a coordinate grid with the left X-axis labeled as “Offense Oriented” (the far left labeled as “Elite Offense”), the right X-axis labeled as “Defense Oriented” (the far right labeled as “Elite Defense”), and the Y-axis labeled as “Upside” or “Ceiling”. Picture Isaac depicted as a red bell curve and Anunoby as green. (Quick note: my goal is for the bell curve to accomplish two things: 1. To essentially outline potential career outcomes for each player, with the height of the curve at any given point displaying the likelihood of the player achieving that outcome; the higher the curve the more likely it is and 2. To show how high each player’s ceiling is. Can bell curves work that way? I don’t know, probably not. I’m not a math guy, but it’s my graph so I can use it how I want.) Both Anunoby and Isaac would fall on the right, “Defense Oriented” side of the grid, with Isaac’s overall ceiling being higher than Anunoby’s. However, I think Anunoby has a chance to be the more dominant and versatile defensive force, while Isaac has a better chance at also being a solid offensive player. I’ve included a picture, with highly advanced graphics, as a depiction below:
OG Anunoby is a high upside, defensive prospect who would be a good selection for the Wolves should Jonathan Isaac no longer be available at 7. Like Isaac, Anunoby would fill some of the Wolves’ defensive holes and would provide some much-needed depth to the team, all while being a high character player. DraftExpress currently has him projected as the 22nd pick to the New Jersey Nets (though he’s ranked 14th in their top 100 prospects), and the folks at The Ringer have him projected as the 13th pick to the Denver Nuggets. Selecting Anunoby at 7 may be a little bit of a reach, but he most likely could be had in the 10-13 range should the Wolves decide to trade down. If Jonathan Isaac is gone at pick 7, the Wolves should take OG Anunoby.