MIAMI — When asked who he models his game after, OG Anunoby didn’t hesitate with his answer.
“Kawhi Leonard,” Anunoby said earlier this month at the NBA draft combine. “I just like his work ethic and how he gets better every year.”
But there’s more it than just that. Anunoby has some of the same rare physical gifts that have helped turn Leonard into one of the best and most versatile players in the NBA.
Leonard measured in at 6-foot-7 and 227 pounds at the 2011 combine with an incredible 7-foot-3 wingspan. Anunoby came in at 6-7.75 and 232 pounds at this year’s combine with an impressive 7-2.25 wingspan.
That comparison alone makes the 19-year-old Anunoby an intriguing draft prospect. It’s part of the reason the Indiana small forward is projected to be a lottery pick in the June 22 draft who will be taken right around the Heat’s pick at No. 14.
While Anunoby comes with plenty of upside, any team that picks him in the first half of the first round will be taking a bit of a risk. He missed the final two months of this past season — his sophomore season — with a torn ACL and underwent surgery on his right knee in January.
“I’m ahead of schedule right now,” Anunoby said of his recovery. “… I’m already back on the court shooting jump shots.”
But Anunoby is still not 100 percent. He was at the combine to meet with NBA teams and undergo medical testing, but he didn’t go through the court work.
When asked if he will be ready for the start of training camp, Anunoby said he’s not sure but he expects to be.
This uncertainty didn’t stop the Heat from using one of their 20 prospect meetings at the combine on Anunoby. Known as an above average defender who can guard nearly every position, it’s not a surprise that Miami has its eye on him.
“I like the coaching staff,” Anunoby said of his combine meeting with the Heat. He added that he fits with Miami because of “the defensive culture there and getting up and down the floor and 3-point shooting.”
While Anunoby said he believes “I can guard one through five,” he also knows there’s room for him to grow on the other end of the court. He averaged 11.1 points on 55.7 percent shooting from the field and 31.1 percent shooting from deep in 16 games before going down with a knee injury last season.
“I think doing more with the ball,” he said of what he wants to grow into as an offensive player. “Being a pick-and-roll ball handler, isos, just doing more with the ball and creating for others.”
For now, his defensive ability might be enough for the Heat to overlook the other red flags surrounding Anunoby.