TORONTO — The Toronto Raptors believe they landed one of the most versatile defenders in Thursday night’s NBA draft when injured forward OG Anunoby fell to No. 23.
The six-foot-eight, athletic combo forward averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in his sophomore season at Indiana, but his college career was cut short when he tore his ACL in January.
“There were a lot of teams right behind us that were salivating to get him and we were lucky he fell to us at 23,” said Raptors coach Dwane Casey.
“He can guard one through five, easily. He’s a P.J. Tucker clone, practically. That’s something that gives us some toughness and ability to switch things defensively. His size and strength and athleticism is a huge plus for us.”
Anunoby met with the Raptors in Toronto a couple of days ago, and was in Brooklyn for draft night, dressed in a smart blue plaid suit and blue bow tie.
When asked what he could bring to a Toronto team that made the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, and is perhaps a piece or two away from an Eastern Conference championship, Anunoby said “A versatile wing defender that can defend multiple positions, and on offence hit open shots, cut to the basket, and then just create havoc on defence.”
Anunoby, who boasts an impressive seven-foot-two wingspan, played just 16 games this past season, and the injury added plenty of mystery around his stock heading into the draft.
The injury prevented him from participating in any pre-draft workouts, but said his rehabilitation is “two months ahead of schedule.
“I’m starting to do a lot more on the court, I started running,” Anunoby said. ”I should be back full go (in) October, November.”
Casey said he’ll head to Los Angeles in the next couple of days to work with Raptors’ director of sports science Alex McKechnie.
Anunoby gives Toronto some breathing room with forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson all becoming unrestricted free agents as of July 1.
Dillon Brooks of Mississauga, Ont., a guard out of the University of Oregon, was selected 45th overall by the Houston Rockets. Reports had him headed to the Memphis Grizzlies in a trade.
The 19-year-old Anunoby — whose full first name is Ogugua — was born in London, but moved to Missouri at the age of four. His older brother Chigbo is a defensive tackle who has been signed by several NFL teams, including Cleveland and Minnesota, but hasn’t yet played a regular-season game.
Anunoby confirmed that he would continue to wear his trademark short shorts next season in Toronto.
The Raptors acquired the pick in 2015 from Milwaukee, acquiring the draft rights to Norm Powell along with a future first-round pick in exchange for Greivis Vasquez. The Raptors sent their 25th pick to Orlando in February as part of the trade for Ibaka, and their second-round pick to Phoenix in February as part of the trade for Tucker.