So here’s the thing: the Indiana Pacers had their chance to acquire OG Anunoby years ago, something many Hoosier fans either hoped for or expected.
He was drafted with the 23rd pick in the first round of the 2017 NBA Draft by the Toronto Raptors after spending two years in Bloomington, electing to enter the draft following the firing of Tom Crean and the hiring of Archie Miller.
The Pacers, meanwhile, used the 18th pick on T.J. Leaf out of UCLA. Leaf currently plays for the Beijing Ducks of the Chinese Basketball Association.
Anunoby has spent the entirety of his professional career thus far with the Raptors, winning a championship on the Kawhi Leonard-led team in 2019. He’s been a key piece in Toronto for years, being fourth on the team in scoring this past season while leading the NBA in steals.
He averaged 16.8 points, 5 rebounds and two assists per game for Toronto this past season, which ended in a narrow loss to Chicago in the play-in tournament.
The Raptors likely face an uncertain future in the wake of the 2022-23 season after finishing at exactly .500 and last place in the Atlantic Division. Head coach Nick Nurse openly speculated about his future with the team following the season.
A move from one franchise without a clear path forward to a rebuilding one could suit Anunoby, and the Pacers are a prime example of just that.
The Pacers are firmly in rebuilding mode as the organization looks to build around star point guard Tyrese Haliburton for the future, with team leadership giving him a say in roster decisions.
Haliburton is a selling point for the team in negotiations, being a positive force off the court who’s more than willing to share the ball on it while being fully capable of scoring himself.
Scoring isn’t an issue for the young roster, the 2022-23 Pacers scored more points than any team in the team’s history. Defense is the issue, and the NBA’s steals leader could certainly help in that respect while adding plenty of points himself.
Additionally, GM Kevin Pritchard has openly mused about the possibility of acquiring talent through trades or free agency in media availabilities following the season, notably with former Indiana insider and current Indianapolis Star Pacers beat writer Dustin Dopirak.
Pritchard: "I want to be really creative about how we go after players." Talks about packaging draft picks in trades.— Dustin Dopirak (@DustinDopirak) April 11, 2023
Pritchard said he doesn’t necessarily want to make use of all of the Pacers’ draft picks on younger players and spoke of acquiring “the big fish”.
In NBA terms, Anunoby isn’t necessarily “the big fish” but his experience in the playoffs and defensive ability could be an immediate difference maker for the Pacers as the rest of the roster looks to improve on the defensive side of the ball.
As previously stated, this scenario has long been a dream for Hoosier fans. It could be the closest to coming to fruition as it was the night he was passed over in the draft. Time will tell and this is purely speculation.
That being said, let us remember a truly funny tweet:
Okay, I'll bite: Honest question, why is OG Anunoby getting a ton of press after 4.9 points and 2.6 rebounds per game?— Hammer and Rails (@HammerAndRails) November 9, 2016