Lu Dort’s uprising couldn’t have come at a better time for the OKC Thunder

OKC Thunder, Power Ranking W15: Luguentz Dort #5 of the OKC Thunder looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)
OKC Thunder, Power Ranking W15: Luguentz Dort #5 of the OKC Thunder looks on during the game against the Sacramento Kings (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Lu Dort’s breakout season comes at a perfect time for OKC Thunder.

The OKC Thunder have dealt with a ton of adversity over the last calendar year, and are still feeling the ripple effect from events that happened even previous to this last year. However, this undrafted guard has provided a bit of serenity for the shooting guard position.

Over two years ago now, Andre Roberson suffered a knee injury that has kept him sidelined ever since. This year, personal issues have resulted in Terrance Ferguson only playing, and not very well, in 38 of the OKC Thunder’s 52 contest and he’s subsequently lost his starting spot. A spot he has held down since the Roberson injury during Ferguson’s rookie year.

Losing two starting-caliber shooting guards for any significant amount of time could’ve been a death blow to the OKC Thunder, who already lack wing depth as they trot out Abdel Nader and company. Instead, the Thunder have gotten a huge lift from the undrafted rookie, Luguentz Dort.

The Canadian was a surprising option after the draft. Some NBA mock drafts had the Arizona State product getting selected at the tail end of the first round at some points a year ago. His plummet down NBA Draft boards is puzzling and peculiar, but the OKC Thunder has taken advantage of it.

I have always been high on Dort since he was performing as the best defender in the PAC-12 conference a year ago despite sharing a conference with Matisse Thybulle, but that is a story for another day. While I never bought into the Deonte Burton hype, I was beating the drum for Dort being everything fans wanted Burton to be. At the end of the day, one player is a gimmick, the other is a starting shooting guard in the NBA.

Lu Dort has heard his name called ten times in the starting lineup, and in those ten contests, the OKC Thunder is 9-1. The lone loss? At the hands of a full healthy Mavericks squad. In that time Dort was tasked with guarding Doncic, Harden, and Damian Lillard (who is currently setting hardcourt’s ablaze).

In this starting stretch, the Canadian shooting guard posted seven points, a steal, and a rebound per contest. He is shooting the trey ball at a 42 percent clip and has played outstanding defense.

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When Lu Dort is a starter the OKC Thunder has a 109 defensive rating. In the last five minutes of games when the contest is within five points, the OKC Thunder have a 105 defensive rating with Dort on the floor. Against James Harden, Dort only allowed 17 points and saw the beard go just 22 percent from beyond the arc.

It is only a matter of time before Lu Dort has his two-way contract converted into a full deal, which makes this ride even more special for the rookie.

Due to the nature of two-way deal’s you can only be with your NBA team for 45 days. No, not game days, but truly days on the calendar.

Since the OKC Thunder have not converted Dort’s deal yet, he can not practice with the team. Not by rule, but because the organization does not want to burn one of these 45 days with practice. That is extremely detrimental for a defensive player like Dort.

The defense is such a team game, even more so than offense. You have to trust and know and understand where your teammates will be at certain spots. When is it time to switch? If he gets by me who is still back? The list goes on and on.

You only learn that stuff with repetitions and practice. So the fact that Lu Dort is already a defensive menace without the practice, is shocking. It goes to show how much room the 20-year-old has to grow.

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What most impresses you about Lu Dort’s game?