Luguentz Dort’s professional career started with disappointment. The Canadian out of Arizona State was not taken during the 2019 NBA Draft and went undrafted. Dort was slated to be picked in the late first round after a strong season in Tempe.
That disappointment has not affected Dort; going undrafted has been beneficial to his career. Dort is now the starting small forward for the Oklahoma City Thunder. Lu Dort will be in line to receive a contract this summer that ensures financial security for a lifetime. It has been one hell of a rise for Luguentz Dort.
Dort started his journey in professional basketball with the Oklahoma City Blue. Dort was impressive in the G-League as a scorer, but it was his defense that stood out. Dort played a great brand of defense that bothered opposing players and shored up the Blue’s defense. His defense and energy led to a call-up for the main roster.
At the start of December, Oklahoma City was struggling for bodies at the wing positions. Hamidou Diallo was out of the rotation due to injury, and Terrance Ferguson was unavailable due to personal reasons. The injury ravages meant that the Thunder needed Dort.
Oklahoma City needed Dort to run with the reserve unit and play solid defense. The Thunder did not need anything else out of Dort. Lu Dort played his role to perfection, and he was a pest on defense.
In Dort’s first few games with Oklahoma City, the Thunder played the Utah Jazz and the Portland Trailblazers. Dort had the task of defending Donovan Mitchell, CJ McCollum, and Damian Lillard. All three players are tough customers who can embarrass defenders.
Dort’s defense held up against the All-Star guards. All three players had inefficient scoring nights and struggled against the undrafted rookie. This run of games was the first sign that Luguentz Dort could become an actual NBA player.
There was a rawness to his game, but Dort had a solid base that could be refined into NBA talent. In that five games run before he headed back to the G-League, Dort showed flashes of play that indicated he could be an elite defender in the league.
Despite the limited minutes, Luguentz Dort became a cult figure for a lot of Thunder fans. Across social media, you could see there was a lot of love for Dort. The popular Thunder podcast ‘Down to Dunk’ changed their Twitter handle to ‘Down to Dort’ about his popularity.
After that stretch of games, Dort went back to the G-League. Terrance Ferguson came back from his absence, and there was no space for Dort on the main roster. Terrance Ferguson and Abdel Nader occupied the minutes on the main list.
Luguentz Dort had to wait until the New Year to get another opportunity to showcase his ability on the main roster. January was a purple patch for the Thunder, Oklahoma City performed exceptionally on the road in hostile arenas.
However, Thunder players were dropping like flies. Key rotation players became unavailable for Billy Donovan, and the Thunder had to patch the rotation together. Luguentz Dort got called up because Terrance Ferguson and Abdel Nader could not play against Portland.
The Thunder needed a wing to play the minutes that Abdel Nader usually played for Oklahoma City. Dort was a natural choice; Dort already had experience at the NBA level from his previous stint with the main roster, and the transition would be relatively painless.
Dort stepped into the rotation and has never looked back. He earned the starting small forward spot by outplaying Terrance Ferguson, Abdel Nader, and Hamidou Diallo. Dort’s defense was valuable for the Thunder; he was able to make talented players have inefficient nights from the field.
Dort’s versatility was valuable for the Thunder on defense. Dort does not have a lean frame, but he is built like a fire hydrant. Dort is capable of defending point guards to power forwards with reasonable effectiveness.
Terrance Ferguson is also capable of defending multiple positions, but the difference between Ferguson and Dort is their frame. Ferguson has a wiry build, which allows him to move quickly on the court, but it means Ferguson cannot defend more prominent players.
A taller, more influential player can bump Terrance Ferguson off his spot and get an easy bucket. It is challenging to knock Lu Dort because of his stocky, sturdy build. Dort is a problematic player on defense to bypass because of his physical tools.
Moreover, Luguentz Dort earned his starting minutes as he contributed more on offense than Terrance Ferguson. Ferguson is a more efficient shooter statistically, but his impact on the court is insignificant.
There has been a terrible passivity that has crept in Terrance Ferguson’s game. Ferguson has seemed reluctant to shoot the ball at times this year; it has not been uncommon to see Ferguson pass up open looks.
Luguentz Dort has been more than willing to take shots from deep. Dort will shoot the ball if he gets a good look from the corner three; Dort is not over-thinking his shot. Dort is a worse shooter than Ferguson, but taking these shots forces the defense to respect his presence on offense.
Lu Dort’s rise from being an undrafted rookie to the starting small forward on a play-off team feels like a fairytale. It is a narrative that rarely occurs in sports, and it is a story left for the movies. In Dort’s case, it is the reality. Dort earned his way into the league behind his defensive ability.
For this reason, Luguentz Dort is ‘Thunderdog’ of the season. Dort came from nowhere to start for a team that has been highly successful this season. His meteoric rise deserves to be recognized.
Dort faced adversity from day one, but he did not let the obstacles affect him. The Montreal native got his head down and worked to overcome the challenges. He starred in the G-League for the Blue and then established himself as a rotation regular for the Thunder. Luguentz Dort’s journey is a real-life fairytale.