Thunder

Dort’s Diligence Paying Dividends

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Back in June 2019, Luguentz Dort was left disappointed after not hearing his name called in the NBA Draft. He was coming off a stellar season at Arizona State, where he averaged 16.0 PPG, 4.3 RPG and 1.5 SPG.

There was hope, however. Oklahoma City decided that they liked what they had seen from him, signing him to a two-way deal. With the summer that was coming for OKC, they may not have thought much of this pick up at the time.

It turned out to be one of the best things they did that summer.

 

G-League Stint

Dort spent the first part of his two-way deal with OKC’s G-League franchise, the Oklahoma City Blue. He played 13 games for them, averaging 19.5 PPG, 4.8 RPG and just under 1.0 SPG across 32.0 MPG. The team’s record was poor. They were set to have their worst season in three years and finish outside of the playoffs before the season was officially cancelled on June 4th. Despite the poor season, Dort’s performance was encouraging.

NBA Call Up

Dort played his first game for the Thunder on December 6, 2019 against the Minnesota Timberwolves, posting seven minutes in an overtime win. His stats didn’t stick out, but his effort was infectious and earned him another six appearances in December. OKC went 4-2 during that span, featuring an impressive road win against the defending champion Toronto Raptors. After a stint out away from the team, Dort returned in the middle of January and got his first start in Houston on January 20. This game was one of the most impressive performances for the Thunder so far.

Five games after the Houston game, Dort went for a career-high 23 points in a 120-100 victory against the Sacramento Kings– a game in which he shot an impressive 5-6 from behind the arc. This game wasn’t a fluke by any means. During a 131-103 blowout win against San Antonio he went a perfect 6-6 from the floor and 2-2 from three-point land. His scoring is still inconsistent, but it isn’t what Oklahoma City is relying on him for. What they are looking for is defense, which certainly isn’t lacking in Dort’s game.

Dort on Defense

At 6’5″ and 215lbs, Dort has a burly build which is great for defense. Losing Paul George last summer meant losing perimeter defense. This is a responsibility that Dort has been able to take on his wide shoulders. With a massive 80-inch wingspan, he is able to use his length to alter shots. Despite being 215lbs, he has very quick feet and is able to stick with the shifty guards that are all around the NBA right now. His size and strength allows him to guard 1-3 and effectively hang with some 4s. The intensity he brings to the court, especially on the defensive end, is second to none.

Describing what Dort can do on defense is great, but doesn’t quantify just how impressive he has been. In his match-up against Donovan Mitchell, he was able to hold Spida to 2-7 from the floor and 1-4 from three-point land. In two matchups against Kemba Walker, he didn’t allow a single field goal. The most impressive performance came against James Harden, one of the most prolific scorers we have ever seen. Dort held him to 2-13 from the field and 1-9 from deep. This came in an extremely impressive five-point win for OKC at Houston.

New Contract

On June 24, Dort signed a four-year, $5.4M partially-guaranteed deal. The contract was a huge milestone for Lu, who just one year prior, was left wondering whether he’d even be on a team. With Andre Roberson recently making an incredible comeback to basketball, the Thunder now have some defensive depth. This was definitely on display in their scrimmages, as they were on course to allow less than 100 PPG in all three games before Portland dropped a 42-point fourth quarter on them. Nonetheless, signs were still encouraging heading into the full restart.

The Bubble

On August 1, OKC played their first seeding game against Utah, emerging victorious in a game that was essentially over at the half. Dort played 30 minutes and was on the floor for two things– spacing and defense. From the first minute of the game he planted himself on the corner three. This allowed Chris Paul to get to his spot and feed Steven Adams, who had 16 points on 7-10 shooting. But once again, it was Dort’s defense that stood out the most. His main matchup of the game was Donovan Mitchell once again, and he did not disappoint. Dort forced the ball out of Mitchell’s hands on multiple occasions, leaving him frustrated. On top of that, he held Mitchell to 0-6 from the floor when guarding him.

OKC’s second bubble game saw them take the Denver Nuggets to overtime. They were a Chris Paul free throw away from an impressive win. Dort struggled on offense in this game, shooting just 1-6 from three. The most frustrating thing for Dort– a lot of these were open looks. Despite this, his energy on the defensive end was still infectious. He was getting into shooters all night and even met Paul Millsap at the rim for a ferocious block.

Not the result they wanted, but the Thunder will be encouraged by Dort’s constant defensive effort.

He’s going to have multiple opportunities to continue to show everyone just how good he is, with match-ups against the likes of Devin Booker, Ja Morant and Jimmy Butler to follow.

Follow us on Twitter @ThunderLead for the latest Thunder news and insight.

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About Eshan Arya

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