Former Indiana forward OG Anunoby has a clear goal for what kind of player he wants to become in the NBA.
“I think I can become the best defender in the league in a couple years,” Anunoby said today at the NBA Draft Combine. “I think I’m very versatile on defense, strong enough, quick enough to guard anyone.”
How many positions can you guard? “I think I can guard five positions.”
As Anunoby begins the formal process of interviewing with NBA teams — he is unable to work out while still recovering from an ACL tear suffered Jan. 18 — that’s part of what he is communicating to NBA teams.
Measured at 6-foot-7 3/4 in shoes (6-foot-6 1/2 without) with a 7-foot-2 1/4 wingspan and an 8-foot-11 1/2 standing reach and 232 pounds, Anunoby is widely projected to be a first round pick in the June 22 NBA draft.
He said he models his game after another player with a similar physical makeup, San Antonio Spurs 6-foot-7 forward Kawhi Leonard, who entered the NBA in 2011 as the 15th overall pick.
Leonard was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 2014-15 and 2015-16, NBA Finals MVP in 2014 and went from a 7.9 points per game scorer as a rookie to 25.5 this season for the San Antonio Spurs.
“I just like his work ethic, how he gets better every year. That’s the main thing,” Anunoby said.
The forward IU recruited from Jefferson City, Mo., was measured and went through medical testing at the combine, he said.
He won’t be able to workout for NBA teams due to the ACL tear he suffered to his right knee in IU’s 78-75 win at Penn State on Jan. 18.
He said NBA teams have not shown concern about the injury.
“It was an ACL tear, nothing else,” Anunoby said. “They know I’ll be fine.”
Anunoby has been back on the court shooting but going live in competitive action on the court is “probably a little ways away.”
As far as whether or not he’ll be 100 percent by training camp in the fall he said: “I expect to be.”
Anunoby said he’s a little ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation and when he goes live in full-contact action on the court will be up to doctors.
During his rehab, talking with Derek Anderson and Alex Poythress, two other players who went through knee injuries, helped him.
Anunoby played in 50 college games at Indiana, making 10 starts. He averaged 4.9 points and 2.8 rebounds as a freshman but 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds in 16 games as a sophomore before the right knee ACL tear ended his season.
In his college career, he shot 36.5 percent (27-for-74) from the arc.
He sees himself as a modern hybrid NBA forward with defensive impact anywhere on the court.
“I think I can guard one through five,” he said of what positions he can defend. “In the NBA now, the three and the four are pretty much the same, kind of a hybrid.”
He discussed what he feels are his current strengths: “Just being able to defend everyone, my 3-point shooting and using my athleticism.”
And the next step in his progression: “I think doing more on the ball, being a pick-and-roll ball handler, ISOs (isolations), doing more with the ball, creating for others.”
At the combine, he interviewed with a number of teams, mentioning the Orlando Magic, Miami Heat, Los Angeles Lakers and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Lakers had coach Luke Walton, general manager Rob Pelinka and team president Magic Johnson.
“He’s pretty energetic, pretty excited,” Anunoby said of Magic Johnson.
As far as his decision to turn pro, Anunoby said that was made “coming into the season.” Even after his ACL tear, he said that didn’t change at all in his mind. “I knew I wanted to go,” he said.
Anunoby said he talks with current IU coach Archie Miller and former IU coach Tom Crean. He said Miller told him he could stay at IU but knew Anunoby's plan to go pro was already set and was very supportive.
“Coach Archie and coach Crean, I still talk to them. They're both supportive, said they will help me and support me any way they can,” Anunoby said.
Anunoby also said he finished the spring semester academically, was on pace to graduate in three years and plans to complete his degree when he can.
When the June 22nd NBA draft arrives, Anunoby, barring the unforeseen, will complete a journey from unranked high school player to first-round NBA draft pick in two years.
“It’s cool,” Anunoby said. “I know I worked hard for it.”