TORONTO (AP) - Re-signing all-star point guard Kyle Lowry still remains the biggest offseason task facing the Toronto Raptors. They did bolster their forward ranks in Thursday night’s NBA draft.
With Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson all unrestricted free agents this summer, the Raptors selected Indiana forward O.G. Anunoby with the 23rd overall pick.
“He’s a P.J. Tucker clone practically,” coach Dwane Casey said after the pick, Toronto’s lone selection in the proceedings.
The 6-foot-8, 232-pound Anunoby averaged 11.1 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 56.3 percent from the field in an injury-shortened sophomore year at Indiana.
The 19-year-old played just 16 games before suffering a season-ending knee injury on Jan. 18.
Despite tearing the ACL in his right knee, Anunoby said before the draft he was feeling great with no pain, and expects to be back on the court by October or November.
“I’m two months ahead of schedule,” he said of his rehabilitation work. The Raptors are taking no chances with the injury, and will get him working with the team doctors just as soon as his introductory news conference is over on Friday.
Casey said that if it wasn’t for the injury, Anunoby might have been gone long before the Raptors were put on the clock.
“He’s a big-time talent and if it wasn’t for his injury he would have gone a lot higher,” Casey said. “He’s a guy that our scouts targeted and luckily he fell to us. There were a lot of teams right behind us that were salivating to get him.”
Athleticism clearly runs in the family. His brother, Chigbo, has been signed by several NFL teams, including Cleveland and Minnesota.
Joining a team that coming off back-to-back 50-win seasons and four straight playoff appearances, Anunoby is excited to see what he can add to the Raptors.
“I think I bring a versatile wing defender that can defend multiple positions,” the London, England-born forward said.
That versatility certainly proved attractive to Casey, who has watched his team struggle to contain LeBron James as Cleveland has eliminated the Raptors from the playoffs the past two seasons.
“He has a toughness, he’s NBA ready physically,” Casey said. “Defensively he’s one of the top defenders in the draft. One of those guys you don’t have to say giddy-up too, he’s ready to go right from the start.”
Toronto originally acquired the 23rd pick along with the draft rights to Norman Powell from Milwaukee in 2015 for Greivis Vasquez. The pick originally belonged to the Los Angeles Clippers.
The Raptors sent their own pick (25th overall) to Orlando back in February as part of the trade for Ibaka.
They also shipped this year’s second-round pick to Phoenix in February to help complete the trade for Tucker.
The Raptors went into the draft without a general manager after Jeff Weltman left last month to become president of the Orlando Magic.
Raptors president Masai Ujiri said he has made his mind up on a replacement, but held off making the announcement until after the draft.
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