With three first round picks in the draft, the Portland Trail Blazers have a ton of flexibility to reshape this roster. There has been a lot of talk lately about using the picks to attach to come of the bloated contracts on the roster to create some cap space relief.
Another option is to add young talent to a roster that needs to fill a few holes. While there is very little chance that the team will add three rookies, if they do they have the ability to take some chances. One of those risk-rewards could be bringing in Indiana forward OG Anunoby.
The sophomore forward was in the middle of a breakout season when he went down with a torn ACL only 16 games into the season. Before the injury, Anunoby had improved in every aspect of the game. Anunoby was being talked about as a potential lottery pick when he went down.
Anunoby’s per-40 minutes averages in college of 2.2 steals and 2.2 blocks put him in the tier as an elite defender. That fact alone has kept Anunoby in the discussion as a mid-first round pick.
Scouting Report: Ogugua “OG” Anunoby
Hometown: Jefferson City, MO (Born in London, England)
Weight: 232 lbs.
Noted Measurables: 7’2.25” wingspan, 8’11.5” standing reach
School: Indiana University
Experience: 2 years, 50 games
College Statistics: 50 games, 17.4 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg, 56% fg, 36% 3-pt fg (Sophomore year-25.1 mpg, 11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg, 1.4 apg, 1.3 spg, 1.3 bpg)
College Highlights: 2017 Preseason All-American (The Sporting News), 2015 Finalist for Mr. Basketball (High School)
- Defensive Versatility. There are a lot of people around the league that think that Anunoby may be able to guard 4 positions in the NBA. That would obviously be a huge plus. The main question there is whether the hope and potential can truly be achieved. The small sample size is what gives teams pause. But the pure athleticism and measurables give teams hope that Anunoby can become an elite defender.
- Stretch-4 Potential. One of the most sought after positions in today’s NBA is a power forward that can stretch the floor. Anunoby has the ability to play small forward and power forward, but may fit best in the power forward role. As we saw last season with Al-Farouq Aminu in Portland, not everybody can successfully make the transition from playing the 3, to playing the 4. Anunoby will likely enter the NBA as a stretch-4 and be given the chance to develop into that role.
- It is a shame that Anunoby was unable to work out at the NBA Combine because of his knee injury, because when you watch some film of him at Indiana, he jumps off the screen as an elite athlete. Anunoby showed the ability to take defenders off the dribble because of his quick first step and immediate burst. His leaping ability and strong frame are a great combination heading into the NBA.
- Knee Injury. Blazer fans remember Brandon Roy, Greg Oden, Greg Walton, and many of the other franchise cornerstones that have been hampered by knee and leg injuries. If the Blazers, or any other team for that matter, drafts Anunoby in the first half of the first round, there will be a lot of questions to answer. What does the team know about his health? Does his knee check out? Will he play to start his rookie season? It’s a risk for sure, but some team will take it.
- Offensive Game. Anunoby has shown the ability to shoot the three at an adequate level and has always shot a high percentage from the field. Those things aside, Aununoby doesn’t have a ton of polish to his offensive game. He will most definitely have to add more tools to his tool belt to compete in the NBA against elite defenders. He isn’t a back-to-the-basket player. He isn’t a knock down shooter. He hasn’t consistently been able to take people off the dribble. He will really benefit from NBA coaching and training programs.
- Small Sample Size. Playing only 50 games in college doesn’t show NBA teams the full picture of who Anunoby is. When you consider that he only averaged 13.7 minutes in the first 34 games of that career. Teams are going to draft Anunoby for his potential and projection as an elite NBA defender, and not for what he did in the NCAA.
NBA Comparison: Al-Farouq Aminu. This might not be the perfect comparison for Anunoby but the two of them have very similar measureables and they fit the similar role. Aminu has made his money as a defensive wing that can shoot a few three pointers. Aminu has been streaky in his shooting but showed improvement in the 2015-2016 with the Blazers. A lot of Anunoby’s success in the NBA is going to depend on how his shooting stroke improves. If he can shoot 35%+ from three, he can flourish for a team as a three-and-D stretch power forward.
Where he would fit in Portland: Last year the Blazers experimented with a lot of people in the small and power forward roles. Evan Turner. Allen Crabbe. Maurice Harkless. Noah Vonleh. Meyers Leonard. Ed Davis. I may be missing a few guys. The Blazers are in a weird spot where all 6 of those guys listed are under contract next year, but the biggest need for the team is probably power forward. Minutes for a rookie will likely be sparse as a forward unless a move is made, but Anunoby, when healthy, can compete with those guys for a rotation spot.