Signing Lugentz Dort to a full contract will be a priority of OKC Thunder and could happen as soon as June 22nd.
The OKC Thunder have anxiously awaited updates on roster compilation as the league moved toward resuming the season in Orlando. Notably, there was uncertainty regarding how many players teams could bring to the bubble environment.
The League and medical advisors were pushing to limit roster size strictly from a safety perspective and weren’t keen for two-way players to join their teammates in Orlando, but remain as injury replacement options.
For the OKC Thunder that was a concern given Luguentz Dort wasn’t simply an end of bench player. Rather, Dort became an integral contributor, starting in the last 21 games the OKC Thunder played prior to the league suspending the season. Of note, the Thunder record with Dort in the starting rotation is 16-5.
This weekend an article by Adrian Wojnarowski and Bobby Marks on ESPN suggested teams could convert two-way contracted players as soon as June 22 but prior to July 1st.
The NBA is hopeful to allow teams to convert two-way players to NBA contracts beginning on June 22 until July 1, sources said.
The issue for teams not having expanded rosters in Orlando wasn’t simply tied to who would get the majority of playing time. The league has indicated there could be at least one back-to-back set played by every team in the eight ‘seeded’ games. The need to ease players back to avoid injury is essential. Moreover, teams often use the end of bench players in practice to prepare for opponents.
OKC Thunder should convert Lu Dort to full contract as soon as possible
On Sunday, Sam Presti spoke with the media with his primary focus on George Floyd’s death, peaceful protests in response and the team’s stance on social injustice.
Presti also answered questions about the status of Andre Roberson and Lu Dort which Erik Horne touched on his paid-for subscription Athletic article. As typical, the GM seemingly rode the middle of the road keeping all his options open. The takeaway left every single option open.
For those familiar with Presti’s style of holding his cards close to his vest, this isn’t that surprising. It was, however, frustrating the General Manager wouldn’t definitively state signing Dort was a priority for the team or that the team would sign him as soon as they were allowed.
Presti’s message varied from:
‘we have plenty of time before heading down to Orlando” to “certainly going to look at all ways to figure that out‘ to ‘he’s (Dort) certainly someone we want to have with us.”
Again, he’s covering all the bases.
What isn’t being said is part of the reason behind Presti not committing is tied to the fact Dort is the one with all the power. He knows the team needs him and by Presti electing to hold off signing him the Canadian kept delivering. Now the Thunder will need to extend a deal that likely includes several seasons and the salary will be higher now than if the GM had converted the guard sooner in the process.
In fairness to Presti he was exploiting the 45-day allotment the Thunder could capitalize on in Dort’s two-way contract. More noteworthy is last season, the contract extended to Deonte Burton was based on a limited number of games and in hindsight was likely too generous.
Burton signed a two-year deal earning $1.4M this season and $1.6M next season although next season has a team option which means the Thunder can opt-out of this deal.
Clearly, having Dort signed as soon as possible should be the priority and the betting money should be on the team doing so, as soon as that window opens on June 22nd.
As for Andre Roberson, the team is anxious to see him in scrimmages to determine his ability. Whether Roberson is ready to play or not he’ll be a valuable asset to have on the bench to help Dort, Ferguson, and other youngsters on the squad functioning as a defacto coach on the bench.
The Thunder training camp will begin on June 30th in OKC and again in Orlando when they arrive in the July 9th through July 11th period.