A Look Back to Lu Dort’s Polarizing Season

Luguentz Dort #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Luguentz Dort #5 of the Oklahoma City Thunder (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) /

Playoff Dort was seen balling out and clamping up this year’s play-in tournament for the first time since his rookie season. But throughout the season, the ups and downs of Lu Dort were dizzying, and his offensive struggles made him a polarizing figure amongst the OKC Thunder faithful.

Dort averaged about 14 points, five rebounds, and two assists on shooting clips of nearly 40 percent on all field goals, 33 percent on threes, and 78 percent from the free-throw line. He recorded a true shooting rate of 51 percent and an effective field goal percentage of 48 percent – both below the league average.

Despite a polarizing season, Lu Dort saw his postseason elevate his campaign.

This season, Dort played 23 more games than last and has been relatively healthy all season long, but his numbers dipped while his efficiency took a hit despite shooting about two fewer shots per outing.

His usage from the past losing seasons seemed to have also carried to this year. Dort’s usage rate of 19 was only slightly lower than last year’s 22 and 2021’s 21, at a time when tanking was a prevailing thought for the team, but the lowest since his rookie year. His shooting woes – an issue since he entered the NBA — continue to haunt him.

There is no better way to put Dort’s shooting in perspective than it is streaky. Attempting about five threes the entire season, his three-point shooting through months was a terrifying yet promising sight.

Month                                            3-point percentage

November                                               17.1

December                                               37.3

January                                                    34.8

February                                                  44.1

March                                                       29.7

April                                                          30.8

Additionally, the Thunder has a record of 16-10 on games where Dort made three or more threes this season, proving his shooting impact on the team’s cause.

One thing to find optimism about was his corner shooting, as Dort shot well on the corner looks this season, hitting 41 percent of his threes on both corners on exactly 100 attempts this season. This could be a vital stat for the Thunder in the future, as Dort’s potential as a three-and-D wing or a fourth option on offense lies in his spacing capabilities.

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Be that as it may, Dort scored 27 points on a 77 percent true shooting rate in the play-in tournament. That production was his season-high and could not have come at a better time as his contribution versus the New Orleans Pelicans propelled the OKC Thunder to a second play-in game.

The game was a microcosm of everything great about Lu Dort — playing off his teammates’ offensive gravity, punishing sagging defenses, utilizing paint touches, and utterly disrupting opposing offense with his hard-nosed defense.

He signed a contract extension this past summer, earning him about 15 to 17 million in the next four years. The OKC Thunder are banking on his potential offensive worth, which craves consistency and viability over defensive pressure.

Defensively, He recently finished second behind only Jrue Holiday — an elite two-way guard — on The Athletic’s poll of players around the league (subscription required). He saw how other players respect Lu Dort, along with his defensive reputation.

He had incredible defensive displays this season, especially in the clutch. First, there was that game against Jamal Murray in the clutch, where Dort locked down his fellow Canadian to force him to a tough mid-ranger that missed and sealed the Thunder’s 101-99 win against the number one seed Denver Nuggets.

Another was in a matchup with Kawhi Leonard as Dort flaunted an outstanding display of hip mechanics to trample Leonard’s isolation and force him to shoot a tough jumper that did not even hit the rim nor triggered before the buzzer went off.

Aside from his unrelenting intensity defensively, Dort only recorded one steal and 0.3 blocks per game, but it will take a little eye test to prove his defensive value.

There is no question about Dort’s worth on the defensive end. But his offensive game tells a somewhat different and inconsistent story.

Moving forward, Dort’s usage will likely decrease. Therefore, maximizing him on the defensive end and offsetting his weaknesses on the offensive side shall be a point of emphasis.

Lu Dort’s outstanding postseason showed why he is a franchise pillar. Sam Presti raved about Dort in his exit interview, and despite offensive inefficiency (Which Dort has admitted he needs to be better at and will work on), you can not replace his defensive prowess.

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