First-Round Candidate: O.G. Anouby
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ID CARD: 6-foot-7¾ small forward, Indiana, sophomore, 19 years old
DRAFT RANGE: Ranked 14th by DraftExpress.com; 13th by ESPN.com; fourth among small forwards by NBA.com
SCOUTS LOVE: You don’t have to squint very hard after watching Anunoby move to imagine him as the prototype for the modern NBA player. With a premium on players with size who can move their feet and defend multiple positions, Anunoby will get long, hard looks by teams drafting late in the lottery who’ve seen more ideal fits gone off their draft boards. The most frequent player comparison for Anunoby is San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard – also the guy Anunoby says he emulates. It’s outlandish to compare Anunoby to the Leonard of today, a legitimate MVP candidate, but it’s not quite that much of a reach if you’re looking at a 19-year-old Leonard – his age when San Antonio traded George Hill for him on draft night 2011 and used the 15th pick on the San Diego State sophomore.
SCOUTS WONDER: For all his potential, Anunoby still qualifies as raw. Indiana was far and away his best offer, discovered by then-IU coach Tom Crean while recruiting another player at an AAU game. Missouri, the nearest big-time school and not in position to pass on talented in-state players, never offered him. Anunoby emerged as an important piece for a 27-8 team as a freshman. He was off to a strong start to his sophomore season – helping IU to wins over top-five teams Kansas and North Carolina – when he went down with a knee injury in mid-January. Though Indiana never revealed the extent of the injury, Anunoby said this month while at the NBA draft combine that it was a clean ACL tear with no residual damage to other ligaments or cartilage. He expects to be ready for training camp, though he clearly will not be able to work out for teams prior to the draft and is unlikely to be cleared for Summer League or full participation in workouts this off-season. If healthy, scouts wonder what Anunoby can become on offense, where there’s no clear standout skill.
NUMBER TO NOTE: 311 – That was Anunoby’s percentage from the 3-point arc in the 16 games of his sophomore season. Not the biggest sample size, of course, and even tougher to put into context given that Anunoby shot .448 from the arc as a freshman while attempting just 29 for the season. Anunoby has the stuff to be an elite defensive player in the NBA, but he’d need to be at least an average 3-point shooter to project as someone who can hold down a prominent rotation spot for a playoff team.
MONEY QUOTE: “I’m ahead of schedule right now. Just depending on the doctor. See what he says. I’m already on the court shooting jump shots. (One hundred percent) is probably a few months away. I expect to be (ready for training camp), but I’m not sure yet.” – O.G. Anunoby on the status of his injured knee while speaking at the NBA draft combine on May 12.
PISTONS FIT: Would the presence of Stanley Johnson make Anunoby a redundant player for the Pistons? While the Pistons have used Johnson primarily at shooting guard and small forward, Anunoby projects more as a small forward and power forward. In fact, power forward might ultimately be the position where Anunoby holds the most NBA value, particularly down the stretch when many teams downsize and put non-conventional power forwards at the four. If the Pistons see that as Anunoby’s future, then maybe he makes sense. A defensive trio of Johnson, Anunoby and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope could be dominant.
BOTTOM LINE: The Pistons drafted Spencer Dinwiddie with the 38th pick in Stan Van Gundy’s first draft, 2014, coming off a knee injury that ended his junior season at Colorado. His injury, which also occurred in mid-January, was more severe than Anunoby’s – at least if Anunoby’s version of the injury is backed by the medical exams NBA teams will administer – involving meniscus damage, as well. Dinwiddie was ready to go before training camp. If the Pistons view Anunoby as a value too good to pass with the 12th pick, it’s unlikely they’d be scared off by his injury if they determine it to be one that will be completely resolved in time.