Thunder weekly notebook: NBA mix messages, Lu Dort, and lineups

Metropolitan 92's French power forward Victor Wembanyama (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images)
Metropolitan 92's French power forward Victor Wembanyama (Photo by EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP via Getty Images) /

The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten their season underway! The season is a week old, and OKC is already four games into this 82-game marathon with their fifth game on the horizon against the L.A. Clippers on Thursday.

Everything feels a bit better with the NBA on television every night, or better yet, going down to the Paycom Center on a brisk windy Oklahoma City evening and enjoying your walk to the arena. With all systems go, there are some early storylines four games into the Thunder season like Lu Dort’s struggles, Mark Daigneault’s lineup roulette, and the NBA is sending out mixed messages to all 30 teams.

The NBA is sending mixed messages to NBA teams ahead of the loaded 2023 NBA Draft and the Thunder have some major storylines just four games into the season

The National Basketball Association has been looking for ways to counteract tanking, even going as far as to mention relegation over the past week, a plan Adam Silver knows would never work or get approved in the NBA.

So as the NBA threatens teams to not tank for generational stars, and for small markets to pass up the one avenue they have to truly improve their team, they are also broadcasting every game of Victor Wembanyama’s season for free on the new NBA App to allow fans to see what is at stake which each passing loss and ping pong ball for your favorite team.

The NBA does not have a tanking problem, the OKC Thunder are not the face of it, and this is a topic that should be put to rest.

Mark Daigneault has used 76 different lineups this season, and that has got the attention of OKC Thunder fans, and while the rotational patterns have been interesting I think there are two basic ways to describe the reasoning.

The first and foremost is, this is just a deeper roster. There are simply more players that the organization wants to develop long-term on the bench for Daigneault to cycle through. If a certain player is not playing up to par on a given night, the Thunder can just cycle through their Rolodex of players and try to find the hot hand.

The second is injuries. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander has missed time, as has Josh Giddey and Jalen Williams, not to mention Chet Holmgren being out for the year and not available in a three-game stint that saw OKC take on Karl-Anthony Towns, Rudy Gobert, and Nikola Jokic. While this will be something to keep an eye on moving forward, let’s see if a normal rotation declares itself once OKC is healthy.

Lu Dort is off to a poor start offensively through four games, shooting 15 percent from three. Dort is actually shooting 19 percent on non-corner threes, and in the corner is 0-for-5. During the last two years of his career, Dort has shot 46 and 44 percent from the corner so this struggle comes as a bit of a surprise.

The three-point shooting is not the only area to decline out of the gate, his rim finishing is down ten percent from last year, and his short mid-range is sitting at 18 percent which pulls his overall mid-range shooting 13 percent lower than what it was last year.

The only area of the floor Dort is shooting well is on long mid-range jumpers according to cleaning the glass that mark is up to 67 percent through just three attempts.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander summed this up well, saying “I’ve seen Lu [Dort] go from a non-shooter to a really good shooter, I’ve seen Lu [Dort] go from not drafted to what he is now, there are ups and downs in life.”

The bottom line is, it is early and if Lu Dort had this same four-game struggle in say, March, it goes relatively unnoticed, or passed off as a slump.

Next. The NBA does not have a tanking problem. dark