Can OG Anunoby Ever Be As Good As Kawhi Leonard?
There are a lot of similarities between OG Anunoby & Kawhi Leonard
It’s easy to make comparisons between Kawhi Leonard and OG Anunoby. For one, they both have very similar physiques, standing around 6'7 inches and weighing over 225lbs (Anunoby weighs in at 232). Both have long wingspans and have the strength to guard multiple positions.
But the similarities are more than just physical, both of them are introverted, meaning they don’t give the best interviews (unless you like brevity). They’re both gym rats who are constantly working on their game. Kawhi and OG pride themselves on being 2-way players, who can cause havoc with their defense, or change the game with their offense.
Their demeanor to me though is what is most alike, they are both silent people who let their actions speak for themselves, and lead by example on the court.
Besides what is common in terms of their attributes and personality, I am very excited about OG’s trajectory regarding his performance on the court. When comparing OG to Kawhi at 23 their games are remarkably similar. I realized if OG continues to improve at this rate, he could one day be as dominant of a player as Kawhi Leonard.
Obviously, comparing two players by looking at stats alone doesn’t paint the complete picture, but it can give us an idea of the progress OG has and is making. Let’s examine what kind of player Kawhi was 4 years into the league and how OG measures up.
Both OG and Kawhi are great defenders
Kawhi by the time he was in his 4th year, was already a defensive monster. He set a career-high by averaging 2.3 steals a game, and 5.9 defensive rebounds to go with 0.8 blocks a game. Kawhi would win the 2014–2015 defensive player of the year award, as well as being named to the all-defensive first team while leading the Spurs to the 2nd best defensive rating in the league!
Now those are tough shoes to fill, Kawhi is a defensive genius, and is one of those rare players who can change the game with his defense alone. OG however, is no slouch defensively, and although he may not be the best defensive player on the planet at this stage (like Kawhi may have been) he is still VERY good at getting stops.
OG had a career year last year. He averaged 1.5 steals, with 4.3 defensive rebounds, and 0.7 blocks a game. The eye test also confirmed his defensive prowess as they tasked him with guarding the opposing team's best scorer most nights. He anchored our wing defense and had the versatility to guard all positions including PG and Center.
Although Kawhi was (and probably still is) a better defender, OG is one of the best defenders at his position in the league, and because he is so versatile could one day be a defensive player of the year candidate as well.
Offensively Kawhi & OG had similar offensive numbers 4 years into their career
Kawhi who is now one of the most efficient and lethal scorers in the league was not always this polished. However, his offensive numbers in year 4 were still terrific.
He averaged 16.5 points a game on 48% shooting from the field, 80% from the free-throw line, and 35% from the 3 point line. Kawhi is a strong offensive rebounder picking up 1.3 offensive rebounds a game. Very nice numbers for a player who was probably still on his rookie contract.
This is where OG seems to close the gap a little because OG arguably was a more efficient scorer than Kawhi at this stage of his career.
Last year OG averaged 15.9 points a game while shooting 48% from the field, 78% from the free-throw line, and 40% from the three-point line! Those numbers are very, comparable to Kawhi’s. But because in today’s NBA the 3-point shot is so important that we can make the argument about him being a better offensive player at this stage. The young wing player also got on the glass for 1.3 offensive rebounds a game.
Kawhi was a slightly better distributor though, he averaged 2.5 assists with 1.5 turnovers a game. Whereas OG averaged 2.2 assists last year with 1.7 turnovers a game. But, Kawhi played for a championship-contending team, and OG played for a Covid ridden Raptors team that was displaced and playing out of Tampa. We could consider the assist numbers a push.
It is a little unfair to be comparing OG to a player who is sure to be a Hall of Famer one day. I am not trying to say Anunoby is better than Kawhi, or he ever will be. What I want to say though, is Raptors fans should be extremely excited about his development. He has the potential to be a star in this league and is one of those rare players that is a 2-way force.
The key here is what happens now, moving forward if Anunoby continues to improve his game at the rate he has been, it's possible his future trajectory could continue on the path Kawhi’s has taken. If that was the case, the Raptors have hit the jackpot. Even if his numbers were anywhere near what Leonard’s numbers are now, the Raptors could easily be contenders sooner than people think. Look for him to have a breakout season this year.