Why Lu Dort playing in FIBA World Cup is so important for OKC Thunder

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

This month, the Oklahoma City Thunder will be well-represented at the FIBA World Cup. With Exhibition play already starting, Team Canada is led by superstar point guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and defensive ace Lu Dort from the OKC Thunder. While the max contract guard will get the headlines, this next month-plus of basketball is actually more important for Dort than Gilgeous-Alexander.

There is no question Lu Dort struggled on the offensive end during the 2022-23 NBA season. Mark Daigneault even touched on the need for Dort to show more restraint on the offensive end. The bench boss explained some players naturally need to be pushed into a more aggressive role offensively, while others need to be nudged in the opposite direction. In said media session, Mark Daigneault used Jalen Williams and Lu Dort as examples on the number line of Williams needing to get a bit more aggressive and Dort less so.

The OKC Thunder could see Lu Dort’s Team Canada trip pay dividends for the upcoming season.

While a lot will be made of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander being in a lead role for his country, rightfully so, as he projects to dominate the FIBA stage this Summer, Lu Dort has the most development to gain at the tournament.

Surrounded by the likes of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and RJ Barrett, along with Kelly Olynyk, Dwight Powell, and Nickeil Alexander-Walker, Dort should be able to be utilized in a more effective offensive role. One that he should be used in during the 2023-24 NBA season around Gilgeous-Alexander, Josh Giddey, Jalen Williams, and Chet Holmgren.

Since his rookie season, Lu Dort has never shot below 40 percent on corner three-point attempts, including a career-best 46 percent clip during the swingman’s Sophomore season. Despite his sturdy frame, throughout his career, Dort has struggled mightily at the rim.

Last year, Lu Dort posted a career-worst 49 percent at the rim. From out-of-control drives to head-scratching misses, Dort became a wildly ineffective offensive weapon for the Thunder.

Though, there is a pathway for Dort to improve on that end. The Arizona State product can thrive on the offensive end with a reduced role, stronger attacks, and more catch-and-shoot corner three-point looks.

Playing in the FIBA tournament surrounded by so many NBA players, along with the matchups against some non-NBA names, should give Dort the runway to display a lot of offensive growth. In Team Canada’s first exhibition game, Dort performed well, including multiple strong flushes at the rack and an effective night shooting from beyond the arc.

If that trend continues, Dort could be added to the list of many players who have attributed breakout seasons to playing internationally in the Summer for their respective home countries.

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