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After something of a mini-breakout in 2021-22 with the Toronto Raptors, OG Anunoby suddenly finds himself the subject of trade rumors.
The fifth-year forward, who averaged 17.1 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game this season, may not be as integral to the Toronto Raptors’ future as previously thought.
“Following a standout season from Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes, word has circulated among rival front offices that Anunoby grew dissatisfied at times with his role in Toronto, where Barnes joined Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet as the primary ball-handlers in Nick Nurse’s offense ,” Jake Fischer wrote for Bleacher Report. “Two sources with knowledge of the dynamic told B/R that Anunoby has not directly expressed discontent with his situation with the Raptors.”
Whether this smoke is being generated from Toronto or rival executives hoping to lure Anunoby away remains to be seen, but these signals often lead to a fire. If Anunoby really does become available, there will surely be plenty of suitors.
There are legitimate questions about his durability (he’s just over 60 appearances per season for his career and just over 45 during the last two seasons), but Anunoby provides the kind of positionless defense and three-point shooting teams are perpetually after.
Fischer noted that the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz would likely join the bidding war, should one start, but there are other teams that ought to be interested, too.
With the asking price reportedly north of “two first-round picks or a first and a promising rookie-scale prospect,” per Fischer, it may be difficult to pry Anunoby from Toronto. It’s at least worth a call for the following five teams, though.
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The Deal: OG Anunoby for Nassir Little, Keon Johnson, the No. 7 pick in 2022 and a 2022 second-round pick (via Memphis)
Damian Lillard is 31 years old. After a summer of trade rumors and speculation about his satisfaction with Portland in 2021, it’s not surprising to see the Blazers’ reported interest in a short-term difference-maker like Anunoby.
With historical NBA timelines as our guide, it’s safe to say that Lillard only has a few years left at “best player on a championship team”-level play. Portland has to go for it now.
While it’s fair to question whether Anunoby is the kind of “go for it” target who would put Portland on the title contenders’ tier, it’s not hard to envision intriguing lineup combinations with him on the roster.
A starting backcourt of Lillard and Anfernee Simons leads to a lot of the same defensive questions that plagued Lillard and CJ McCollum, but Josh Hart and Anunoby filling the 3 and 4 spots could mitigate some of that. Bring Jusuf Nurkic back on a reasonable deal, and you at least have a competitive starting five.
For Toronto, Nassir Little (22 years old) and Keon Johnson (20) both provide slight “turn back the clock” opportunities. They’re wings with physical characteristics similar to Anunoby’s, but they don’t figure to be threatened by Barnes’ ascension to point forward (neither has tasted borderline stardom the way Anunoby has).
The bigger deal, obviously, is the No. 7 pick in this year’s draft. While there may be something of a drop-off after a consensus top three that includes Jabari Smith, Chet Holmgren and Paolo Banchero, Toronto might have some interest in someone in Portland’s current range. And the Raptors don’t face the same win-now pressure that the Blazers do.
Adding another top-10 talent who’s four or five years younger than Anunoby to a core that includes Barnes could raise Toronto’s long-term ceiling.
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The Deal: OG Anunoby, Gary Trent Jr., a 2023 first-round pick swap and a 2024 first-round pick for Rudy Gobert
Given Fischer’s reporting that a deal involving Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. for Rudy Gobert”might be too rich for Toronto brass,” it’s safe to assume there would be significant distance between Toronto and Utah on the negotiating front.
Gobert is five years older than Anunoby, but he’s a three-time Defensive Player of the Year, a four-time All-NBA selection and a defensive system unto himself. Anunoby just missed 34 games, averaged 17.1 points and was barely above average from three. And that was his best season.
Doing a deal with those two as the primary pieces would be a drastic move for the Jazz, but you might argue that’s why Danny Ainge was brought on board.
He made plenty of drastic moves with the Boston Celtics, who are now in the NBA Finals with a versatile team largely constructed by Ainge.
If you look at his team-building strategy there, you might find some clues about what’s next for Utah. Ainge put a lot of stock in wings and forwards who work within the increasingly popular positionless philosophy. Talent and short-term impact aside, Anunoby (6’7″) and Trent (6’5″) make more sense within that philosophy than Gobert does.
If Utah believes a physical decline for soon-to-be-30-year-old Gobert is around the corner and unloading him would prove to Donovan Mitchell that he’s the priority, maybe he would roll the dice on a deal like this.
Perimeter defense has been a massive problem for the Jazz over the last two seasons, and adding Anunoby and Trent to the wing rotation would help there. Moving Mitchell to the 1 (and no longer starting two 6’1″ guards, which they’ve been doing with Mike Conley) would certainly help, too.
Of course, this move would leave a gaping hole at the 5 for the Jazz, but that’s a hypothetical challenge for another day.
For the Raptors, this kind of deal borders on no-brainer territory. One or two solid perimeter defenders alongside Gobert all but guarantees a top-five-to-10 defense, and the potential of a Barnes-Gobert pick-and-roll duo is intriguing.
Toronto would also be better equipped to counter small-ball lineups in the playoffs than Utah’s been. If a team dared run positionless, the Raptors could slide Barnes and Siakam to the 4 and 5 and be just fine.
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The Deal: OG Anunoby for Naz Reid, Malik Beasley and the No. 19 pick in 2022
Fischer reported that “Toronto is also widely known to covet a starting center,” and the Minnesota Timberwolves may have one on their bench.
Naz Reid is two years younger than Anunoby, has shown stretch-5 chops (he averaged 11.2 points and shot 35.1 percent from three in 2020-21) and just posted a higher block percentage than any Raptors rotation player in 2021-22.
Adding that kind of three-and-D potential to the center spot accomplishes a couple of things for Toronto. Reid’s willingness and ability to space the floor leaves driving lanes open for wings and guards like Barnes and VanVleet. His presence as a rim protector would allow the Raptors to do that without sacrificing as much defense as they do when they put Siakam at the 5.
Of course, we don’t know Reid is a starting-caliber center. Hence, the inclusion of Minnesota’s first-round pick this summer. Adding Malik Beasley to the deal offsets the loss of Anunoby on the wing, too. He’s not quite the all-around player OG is, but he’s a high-volume three-point shooter who can swing a game with a hot streak.
On the Timberwolves’ side of this deal, adding Anunoby upgrades a perimeter defense that has to carry some weight alongside Karl-Anthony Towns. Minnesota’s star 5 is never going to move the needle on defense the way someone like Gobert does, so plus players on the outside are key.
A lineup with D’Angelo Russell, Anthony Edwards, Anunoby, Jarred Vanderbilt and KAT would offer an intriguing combination of offense and defense. And it’s not difficult to imagine Patrick Beverley in place of Russell or Vanderbilt, depending on what the situation calls for.
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The Sign-and-Trade: OG Anunoby, Chris Boucher, a 2023 first-round pick swap and a 2024 first-round pick for Deandre Ayton
As soon as the Phoenix Suns were bounced in the second round of the playoffs, rumors about Deandre Ayton’s future with the team started flying.
The team failed to secure him long-term with a contract extension last summer, so he’ll enter restricted free agency as one of the most coveted players on the market.
Phoenix would have the opportunity to match any offer sheet he signs, but the size and length of that deal could scare the Suns off.
“Ayton is expected to command a maximum salary, sources said, but there is skepticism among league executives the Suns would match such a lucrative offer,” Fischer wrote. “… Now, there are three teams most often linked by league personnel as Ayton’s potential suitors on the open market: Atlanta, Detroit and Portland.”
If Toronto really is keen on adding a starting 5, it should join that list of suitors and offer a sign-and-trade.
Ayton isn’t the defensive game-changer Gobert is, but he’s six years younger and has a deeper offensive arsenal. Gobert is one of the league’s best roll men, but Ayton can do that, post up a little bit and hit a face-up jumper from the mid-range.
Coach Nick Nurse is about as well-equipped as anyone to coach Ayton up on the defensive end, too. He’s made strides on that end with Phoenix, but there’s still room to grow.
If Phoenix does indeed open the bidding for Ayton, and others around the league can’t top this package, the deal makes some sense for the Suns as well.
Chris Paul won’t play forever, but last season, all of Phoenix’s centers produced at roughly the same level when sharing the floor with CP3. It’s safe to assume Chris Boucher would get a similar bump, and he’s also shown some floor-spacing ability (he shot 38.3 percent from three in 2020-21).
Adding Anunoby to a largely positionless corps of wings and guards that includes Devin Booker, Mikal Bridges, Jae Crowder and Cameron Johnson makes plenty of sense.
A big reason the Suns lost to the Dallas Mavericks was their inability to match up against five-out lineups. Anunoby can conceivably play some 5 in situations like that.
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The Sign-and-Trade: OG Anunoby for Mo Bamba, Chuma Okeke and a 2023 first-round pick (via Chicago)
Shortly after the Orlando Magic landed the top pick in this summer’s draft, Fischer reported on an “expectation among league personnel that Bamba, a restricted free agent this summer, is likely to depart the franchise.”
He’s another good option to start at the 5 for the Raptors.
After three relatively disappointing seasons buoyed by occasional flashes of three-and-D prowess, things finally came together a bit in 2021-22 for Bamba.
He started 69 of 71 games with Orlando and averaged 10.6 points, 1.7 blocks and 1.5 threes in just 25.7 minutes.
Slotting him in at the 5 alongside Siakam potentially accomplishes all the same things detailed in the analysis on Naz Reid (floor-spacing and rim protection).
The addition of Chuma Okeke would give Toronto a flier on another forward, much like the Portland deal.
The first-round pick feels necessary, given the fact that the Raptors aren’t getting someone of Anunoby’s caliber back right away.
For Orlando, giving that pick up shouldn’t be a huge deal. The Magic will still have their own first in 2023, and the roster is already loaded with under-25 talent.
Moving Wendell Carter Jr. to the 5 and adding Anunoby to a group of forwards that includes Franz Wagner, Jonathan Isaac and potentially Jabari Smith or Paolo Banchero would instantly modernize Orlando.