I am aware that I focused on two bigs as the primary beneficiaries of the OKC Thunder roster after this draft and the addition of two guards. It might sound backward that bringing in a guy similar to Lu Dort could help him, but Cason Wallace can make Lu Dort’s life much easier!
How does Lu Dort benefit from the 2023 Thunder draft class?
Last season Lu Dort averaged a whopping 30.7 minutes per game for the OKC Thunder. That puts Dort easily in the top 100 of minutes per game played out of more than 500 players who got on the court last season.
Just like players, not all minutes are created equally. There is no secret that Lu Dort plays hard. That’s what makes him special as a player and a defender is that he guards guys like he just chugged four Red Bulls on the sideline and smashed that last can on his head before running out.
Still, there is a toll to be paid playing the way Dort does. The amount of minutes he logs while he also is guarding quite literally the best players on the planet every night is going to put some wear and tear on your tires.
In a 10-game stretch last season, Dort guarded Trae Young, Dejounte Murray, Ja Morant, Darius Garland, Tyler Herro, Luka Doncic, Anthony Edwards, Damian Lillard for two straight games, Ja Morant again, and finally CJ McCollum. That is a murderous road and has me wanting to take a water break just reading that list.
Enter Cason Wallace.
Already there has been a lot of talk about Wallace being a Dort “replacement.” Sure, it could end up that way, but I see the Kentucky rookie more as Dort’s “insurance.” Mark Daigneault prioritizes point-of-attack defense, and he adds another guy with that unique skillset next to Dort in Wallace.
Lu Dort’s game is predicated on energy, effort, and physicality. All three things are hard to do while gassed and beaten up. Cason Wallace can come in and provide some similar things on defense as Dort if he is gassed, in foul trouble, or whatever the situation is.
Spreading out some of Lu Dort’s minutes might sound counterproductive, but it’s a long season, and these games are a grind. You want Lu Dort to be as fresh and healthy as possible for the full 82, crunch time, and hopefully the postseason.
Competition can breed success, iron sharpens iron, or whatever cliche you want to throw out. The facts are Cason Wallace in particular can be an asset to the team and make Lu Dort’s life easier. You can also play both guys together and put opposing backcourts in a straight jacket for stretches.
Taking some minutes off Dort’s plate and giving them to Wallace is a double investment. You are investing in your top 10 pick and getting him more developmental reps in big-time games. It’s an investment in the long run of the season for Lu Dort, who essentially is going through a crash course of floor dives, monstrous screens, and all types of physicality in every game.
Lu Dort might not like giving up some of his minutes being the competitor that he is, but in the long run, I think that Wallace and Lu Dort can be a really nice 1-2 punch combo that can compliment each other’s game and play alongside each other.