OKC Thunder two-way player Luguentz Dort has impressed leading to queries regarding his postseason eligibility. As such the Canadian is a hot topic in the news.
If there is one player on the OKC Thunder who might best embody this season it’s arguably Canadian combo guard Luguentz Dort.
Certainly, Chris Paul is the player Thunder Nation thinks of in terms of his effect on the team both on and off the court. But, stripe away the system to drive down to one word about the 2019-20 iteration of the Thunder and you might land on “unexpected”.
This team has delivered competitive and highly entertaining games all season. They’ve far exceeded preseason expectations and maybe most importantly reminded the fan base of how much fun it is to watch a team on the rise.
Likewise, undrafted Canadian Lu Dort was signed as a two-way player by the Thunder and like many in his position saw some garbage time here and there with the varsity squad.
Then just like in the movies he got an opportunity and rose to the challenge. With Terrence Ferguson dealing with personal off court issues as well as injuries the team needed someone to step up. With the door slightly ajar Dort kicked it wide open to take advantage of his moment.
The specifics can be nailed down to January 20th on the road in Houston. Dort got his first start with the assignment of trying to limit league points leader James Harden. The bearded sniper shot 9 of 29 from the field and 1 for 17 from the perimeter. Suffice to say – an impressive starting debut and one that earned him the start in every game since.
Because of the limitations of the 45 days he can spend with the varsity club Dort doesn’t practice with the team as that counts toward the 45 days. This fact resulted in fans flooding social media inquiring what this meant for the remainder of the season. The most frequent questions were about Dort’s postseason eligibility.
Several sites have done a great job of answering these questions from a technical standpoint.
The technical information:
Hoops Rumors writer Luke Adams breaks down all the technicalities as the March 1st deadline for players being waived and still play in the postseason. Adams uses Dort as his prime example for a two-way player and lays out why the Dort and the Thunder are fine.
If the Thunder want to ensure they’ll have Dort available for the postseason, they could unilaterally convert his two-way deal into a standard, one-year NBA contract or negotiate a standard, multiyear pact anytime between now and the end of the regular season…
Oklahoma City is in a pretty good position to make this move with Dort. The team has an open spot on its 15-man roster, so no one would have to be released to make room. The Thunder also have a portion of their mid-level exception available, so they could potentially negotiate a contract of up to three years with the first-year swingman if he’s open to it.
Adams further explains why the Thunder isn’t necessarily in a rush to do this immediately given the economic implications.
Moving Dort to the 15-man roster would increase the Thunder’s projected tax bill, which may dissuade them from promoting him sooner rather than later. But if OKC were to make a move near the very end of the season, the effect on the club’s cap and tax bill would be minimal.
The article provides all the rules leading up to March 1st, does a deeper dive on Dort situation and if you click here you can read it in its entirety.
An article by Cray Allred of Daily Thunder answers every possible question regarding the Dort situation.
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Although Allred covers all the technicalities fans will find it an easy read which leaves you with a great understanding of the logistics.
The most pressing factor for the Thunder is just how crammed their cap sheet remains for 2019-20. They have 14 guaranteed contracts on the books, and Dort would make 15. Which means they will have to waive and eat another player’s salary if they also made an addition via the buyout market. They’re also still above the tax line, so Dort’s new salary would add to their tax bill, in addition to the increased salary for the roster.
They do have the power to unilaterally convert Dort’s two-way deal into a single-year minimum contract. However, minimum contracts pro-rate, so even if they wanted to give up the chance to have him under team control for a longer stretch (highly unlikely) they would wait until later in the season to minimize the tax repercussions.2
What Allred offers that the Hoops Rumors article doesn’t is a deeper dive into the mindset of the Thunder brain trust. He addresses the options, limitations and what Sam Presti and co are likely to do in each scenario (and why). For those wanting the full picture, this is a great read that shouldn’t be missed.
The social media explanation:
Finally, for those who want a quick read and explanation, Jon Hamm provides the condensed social media version that also covers all the bases.
Just go to the start of the tweet and then run through the thread for the full series of tweets on the situation.
Ultimately, the OKC Thunder is in a great spot with a capable defender in Terrance Ferguson available to cover the defensive requirements and when inspired can contribute offensively.
With the slew of difficult games on tap down the stretch, it behooves Billy Donovan to keep utilizing both guards since most great star opponents will figure out how to break down a defender if they see them repeatedly. Having options is win-win for Billy D and the team.
As for what Sam Presti will do with regards to Dort – – time is at his disposal. As each of the above articles and tweet note, a final decision isn’t necessary until season end. If Dort continues to impress the odds are good for the team to extend the contract.