Raptors' O.G. Anunoby finishes season as NBA's steals leader
On the defensive side of the ball this season, Toronto Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby stole the show unlike anyone else in the league this year.
Anunoby will finish the 2022-23 NBA season as the league-wide steals leader in both total steals (128) and steals per game (1.9, in 67 games played), and is the first Raptor to ever lead the league in either, as per TSN’s Josh Lewenberg.
Often faced with matching up against the other team’s top scoring threat on a nightly basis regardless of position, Anunoby upped his defensive resume to arguably his strongest season yet.
In addition to his defensive work, Anunoby has averaged 16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.0 assists in 67 games this season with Toronto.
“The first thing I’d like to say is I think he really responded well to some adversity this season. First and foremost, I thought once the trade deadline passed, he really did a really professional job of playing very well, both sides of the ball,” Raptors coach Nick Nurse said postgame after Sunday’s 121-105 win over Milwaukee. “I think he started shooting and scoring better but but he really had some really tough defensive assignments night after night after night.”
Fellow Raptor Fred VanVleet finished third in both steals per game (1.8) and total steals (123), while the Raptors as a whole led the NBA with 9.4 steals per game, 1.1 more than second-place Memphis at 8.3 per game. Their 772 steals this season is a franchise record, while Doug Christie has the most steals for the Raptors in a season, with 201 steals in 1996-97.
Nurse alluded to Anunoby hopefully getting voted as a member of one of the the NBA’s two All-Defensive teams, or even possibly a Defensive Player of the Year nod, either of which would be the first of his career.
“I hope that he gets recognized for that. I can’t again, I can’t see who else does what he does defensively in the league positionally and does such a good job at it,” Nurse added.
The Raptors take on the Chicago Bulls Wednesday night, when they host their Eastern Conference foe at Scotiabank Arena in the 9/10 play-in game.
Tipoff is set for 7:30 p.m. in a do-or-die game, with the winner advancing to face the loser of the 7/8 play-in game taking place between the Miami Heat and Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night.
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