ESPN’s Kevin Pelton thinks Luguentz Dort is the sixth best player in this year’s NBA sophomore class.
The Oklahoma City Thunder defensive stopper has come a long way since sliding through the cracks and going undrafted in the 2019 draft.
Though his colleague, Mike Schmitz, ranked Dort eighth in the same straw poll, he too was puzzled how Sam Presti and the Thunder landed Dort without having to expend a draft pick.
“I'll never be able to wrap my head around how Dort went undrafted,” Schmitz wrote. “From his monster games at the BioSteel All-Canada game to his appearances at the Nike Hoop Summit and Adidas EuroCamp, Dort was far from a mystery prospect.
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“He spent much of his freshman season at Arizona State in the first-round of our mock draft, won Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and had the body every NBA team looks for in a guard.”
Dort’s defense may have got him into the league, but his development on the offensive end is what has OKC fans excited that the franchise may have one of the draft steals of the decade.
The Canadian’s field goal percentage has held strong at 40 percent while nearly doubling the shots he’s taking per game, all while improving his 3-point shooting from 30 percent to 35 percent over the offseason.
His defense hasn’t suffered so his offense can shine, either. In a trip to Oklahoma City earlier this season, Portland Trail Blazers star and noted Thunder killer Damian Lillard pegged Dort as one of the best on-ball defenders in the league not even a full season into his NBA career.
The Thunder recognize the value in Dort, as they’ve been very carful managing him down the stretch. Willing to rest the former Arizona State guard on the second night of back-to-backs in an effort to manage his load, the best offensive outputs of Dort’s career have come since the trade deadline.
Posting a career-high 42 points against the Utah Jazz, Dort followed that up with performances of 26 and 29 points against Detroit and Toronto.
Once Shai Gilgeous-Alexander returns for the Thunder, and Presti’s war chest of draft assets convert to a living, breathing player, Dort is likely not going to be taking 22 shots a game like he has over his last three outings. But, teams will have to respect him as a legitimate offensive threat, giving the OKC offense another level they never had when defensive stalwart Andre Roberson was in the game.
Dort’s meteoric rise is a testament to not just the work he’s put in himself, but the player development chops of the young Thunder staff.