OKC Thunder rookie can not wait to learn from NBA’s best defender

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

The OKC Thunder are building something special in Bricktown. This rebuilding process has brought excitement back to the Oklahoma City Thunder fanbase. The organization owns the best young core in the NBA and have only added to it this summer.

2nd overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren, is primed to make his NBA debut this season after missing the entire 2022-23 NBA season with a foot injury suffered last August. The OKC Thunder have also added another top-ten pick, Cason Wallace, after making another draft day trade to move up the board from the 12th selection. Sam Presti also convinced two-time EuroLeague Champion and MVP Vasilije Micic to ink a multi-year MVP.

The OKC Thunder’s top-ten pick is eager to learn from the league’s best defender in Lu Dort.

After making a massive leap from 24 wins to 40 wins, the OKC Thunder found themselves in the 2022-23 NBA Play-in tournament, finishing a game shy of advancing to the first round of the NBA Playoffs. At his annual exit interview, Sam Presti stressed that the OKC Thunder have to “finish their breakfast,” remaining fans and media that the Thunder were still a sub-.500 team despite the great strides the squad made.

With the Summer of roster moves that Sam Presti has made, the excitement around Oklahoma City will not be tamed anytime soon. That includes the addition of Cason Wallace, who the OKC Thunder grabbed with the tenth overall pick in the 2023 NBA draft. Wallace only needed the first half of his Summer League debut to light the Thunder fanbase on fire. It is clear after watching him play in Summer League, and the way he explained his game at his introductory press conference Cason Wallace will be an instant fan-favorite in Bricktown.

From the second that the pick was announced, OKC Thunder fans envisioned a world where Cason Wallace turns into the new defensive ace in Bricktown, making Lu Dort expendable and giving OKC a pathway to make a big splash in the trade market. That is still a bit premature; the value for Oklahoma City is allowing the duo to share the floor together for a year or two or the life of Dort’s contract. That way, Cason Wallace can learn the tricks of the trade.

It is similar to how Steven Adams credits Kendrick Perkins for preparing Adams to be an NBA big man. Adams had a much better understanding of what it takes to play in this league after spending training camp practicing with and learning from Perkins. Learning from his peers is something Cason Wallace is eager to do.

“[Lu Dort] is a strong, solid, defensive player, and that’s someone I am ready to step on the court with. Feel like I can learn a lot from him, just hearing his tips on how he stays in front of people…things like that.” Cason Wallace said when asked about playing with Lu Dort.

Cason Wallace will be able to learn a lot from teaming up with the former undrafted guard. Training camp will be a pivotal time for the OKC rookie.

Wallace was one of the best defenders in College basketball a year ago. He displayed a unique ability to stay in front of an assortment of players during his time at Kentucky, was excellent at fighting through screens, limiting his matchups in the half-court offense, and jumping the passing lanes to produce two steals per contest to go along with half a block per game throughout his 32 game college career.

The OKC Thunder getting to pair Cason Wallace with Lu Dort, a top defensive coach in Mark Daigneault, and even Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, who displayed great defense a year ago, will do wonders for Wallace’s development.

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