Luguentz Dort has become a name that a lot of Thunder are familiar with. Dort is the starting small forward for the Thunder. It has been an impressive rise for the young Canadian. Lu went from being an undrafted rookie to a player with financial security and a bright future in the league.
It is strange to see such a rise over the course of one season for a player who went undrafted. Undrafted players usually spend a few seasons developing their skills before they get an opportunity in the league. Patrick Beverley spent years in Russia and Ukraine before the Rockets gave him a shot.
Dort’s rise has been fuelled by effective defense on tough assignments. Dort has guarded Harden, Lillard and Mitchell to name a few without looking out of his comfort zone. Dort’s gritty, physical style of defense bothers players into poor shooting nights from the field.
Marcus Smart feels like an obvious comparison for Dort. Both players love playing defense and are tenacious on that end of the floor. Both players are built like fire hydrants. The key difference is that Smart came into league as a more polished player.
Defense is not the reason why Dort earned his starting spot. If defense was the only metric used by the Thunder coaching staff then Terrance Ferguson would still be starting. Dort’s willingness to shoot long bombs stretches the floor as defenses respect his shot.
Dort is not an efficient shooter from deep but his volume is respected by defense. Defenses feel that they have to cover Dort for the fear that he hits a hot streak from deep. He is a different proposition to Ferguson for a defense.
Ferguson is relatively easy to defend as he is reluctant to shoot the ball. Defenses can sit off Terrance and double another player safe in the knowledge that he will not shoot. Dort’s volume commands respect and therefore he has value on offense for the Thunder.
The key question for Luguentz Dort is his improvement. How does Dort progress as a basketball player? Dort has to ensure that he is able to bring value on offense by having a versatile skillset. It is a tricky task but growth as a shooter is a tangible goal.
It is in Dort’s interest to improve his game. The contract that Lu signed only marginally affects the cap sheet if Dort is waived by the Thunder. The size of the cost to the Thunder is small and will mean that there is an axe looming over Dort’s head. Oklahoma City can cut him without any real impact.
Dort’s statistics are pedestrian but there are few interesting data points to analyse. Dort’s DefRTG of 107.8 puts him in good company. The numbers suggest that his defensive impact is akin to a player like Bam Adebayo or Royce O’Neale.
It is an impressive start to Lu’s career on the defensive front but his numbers need to trend upwards for him to be an elite defender in the league. Improvements on defense will come with experience but Dort can accelerate this process by studying film carefully and learning good habits.
Dort’s OffRTG is also an intriguing statistic. Dort’s offensive rating of 112.5 puts him in a category occupied by superstars and elite role players. Donte DiVincenzo and Landry Shamet both have similar offensive ratings.
Shamet and DiVincenzo both have obvious offensive value. Both players are superb shooters and in DiVincenzo’s case, Donte is a very strong secondary playmaker. Dort satisfies neither criteria. Dort’s TS% of 52.1% is on the low side and his passing efficiency is not much better.
The only justification for Dort’s impact is his work as a glue guy is valuable to the offense. Dort keeps the ball moving on offense and does not try to do too much. Lu understands his role is to take open shots and play hard-nosed defense.
This understanding means that Luguentz Dort performs well as a role player. This performance is reflected in Lu’s net rating. Dort has accumulated a +4.6 NetRTG over the course of the season.
The shot chart does indicate that Luguentz Dort struggles as a shooter. Dort’s willingness to shoot is a positive but he needs to get better at converting his opportunities at a stronger rate. Dort must work on this aspect of his game over the offseason with the Thunder coaching staff.
Dort’s finishing could also use work. Dort converts at 52.6% on looks near the rim. This percentage is below league average. Dort has the ability to become a strong finisher at the rim. Lu’s size and build will allow him to finish through contact and get to the line.
Oklahoma City run in transition on this possession. Paul throws an early toss to Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Shai goes up for a contested layup against LaMarcus Aldridge. The shot hits the backboard and misses the rim.
Shai does not switch off on this play; SGA stays alert to any second chance opportunities. LaMarcus Aldridge is out of the play at this point, Aldridge’s forward momentum has carried him into the stanchion. San Antonio make an uncharacteristic mistake on this possession. Two players go for the same rebound.
The ball bobbles away from the Spurs and Shai is able to pick up the pieces. Dort sees the play materialise and his anticipation of a dish from Gilgeous-Alexander is excellent. Dort does not hesitate as he cuts to the rim hard. The urgency and speed allows Lu to get a step on Trey Lyles.
Gilgeous-Alexander does not attempt to pass directly to Dort; SGA places the ball in space for Luguentz Dort to collect in stride. The pass means that Dort can receive the pass calmly without having to adjust his body.
Dort’s hands are positioned intelligently as he receives the ball. His fingers are outstretched and curved forward slightly. The bend in his hands means Dort can cushion the ball effectively and there is no chance that the ball escape Lu’s grasp.
At the rim, San Antonio have two players who are ready to stop an easy layup. Dejounte Murray is the player who moves himself into a position where he can protect the rim. Murray is a lengthy, versatile defender who is adept at using his size to challenge shots.
Dort recognises that a layup is a bad finish on this possession and chooses to elevate for the dunk instead. Dort uses a hop step to gather his step and channel his forward momentum into an upward leap. The footwork is excellent on this possession as Dort is able to landed with bended knees.
The knees being bent means Dort can explode for dunk instantly. He does not need to waste time ensuring that he has enough lift to make the dunk happen. Lu’s choice of finishing with one hand is a very good decision. The one-handed finish means that Dort is able to generate a few extra inches on his vertical. The dunk is easier with the height boost.
The play executed by Luguentz Dort is relatively simple. Cuts to the rim are common place in the NBA. However, it is Dort’s execution which stands out. His combination of athleticism, physicality and anticipation makes him a difficult person to stop near the hoop.
San Antonio misses a look from the corner and the Thunder are able to start moving in transition quickly. Paul secures the rebound and looks to find a teammate up court for an easy pass. Dort’s reading of the game is impressive on this possession: Lu is already leaking out in transition as he anticipates the outlet ball.
Paul’s pass is very good as he finds Dort with ease. Chris throws an audacious bounce pass that goes through Dort’s legs. The choice of pass means that Dort can collect the ball with his left hand without much difficulty. The pass makes it easy for Dort to shield the ball away from defenders.
Dort drives with the ball and is comfortable creating his own shot off the drive. Luguentz Dort has a solid handle but there are a few weaknesses with his handle. Dort’s dribble can be a little loose on occasion. This is something that Dort needs to work if he wants to progress as a ball-handler.
I think that Lu can become a good slasher but this will not be possible if Dort cannot reliably control the ball as he drives to the rim. Dort has the advantage over Ferguson and Diallo; he is comfortable working with the ball. However, he still needs development in this area of his game.
Dort uses his frame to good effect on this possession. Lu is built like a fire hydrant and has the strength to push defenders out of the way. His physicality means that he can bulldoze through defensive players and create space for himself. Dort bumps Patty Mills and finds the opening for the floater.
The bump means Mills is stumbling backwards and it is difficult for Patty to contest effectively. Mills sticks an arm up in the air to try and contest but he is back pedalling. He is unable to get his arm in a position where he can deflect the floater. Dort times the floater well as he waits for the defense to fade before taking on the shot.
The shot itself is well balanced. Lu Dort does not fall into the trap of overpowering the shot. He shoots the ball with very little thrust and relies on the backboard to guide the ball into the hoop. The glass takes pace off the shot and allows the ball to drop cleanly through the net.
Oklahoma City run a double screen action on this possession. The first screen involves Danilo Gallinari screening Derrick White out of the possession. White is unable to fight over the screen and the Spurs have to switch defenders. Trey Lyles steps onto Chris Paul.
Steven Adams sets the second screen and forces another switch. LaMarcus Aldridge has to guard Chris Paul. This is a play which has been rarely ran by the Thunder this year but it works really well in this situation. Paul is able to get a mismatch that he can exploit.
Aldridge is a good interior defender but he struggles to defend guards. Aldridge lacks the lateral quickness to keep up with smaller players and it is difficult for him to contain a guard like Chris Paul.
Coach Pop runs a drop coverage in the pick and roll to put Aldridge in the best possible position defensively. Aldridge is free to hang back and anchor the defense. However, Chris Paul understands Aldridge’s tendencies and knows how to make the former All-Star uncomfortable.
Chris uses the threat of the mid-range jumper to draw Aldridge away from his comfort zone. The Spurs are really solid defensively on this possession. Every player tightens up and squeezes the strong side of the floor. However, the Spurs’ defense has a weak link.
DeMar DeRozan leaves Dort alone in the corner and rotates into the interior. DeRozan makes the right play but he does not execute the play well. DeRozan does not look back to the corner and check Dort’s position once. DeMar seems to forget about his assignment.
It is a costly mistake by DeRozan. Chris Paul is able to make the swing pass to the corner and Dort has plenty of space to knock down the shot. San Antonio are not in a position to contest the shot effectively.
Derrick White is put in an impossible decision where he has to guard two capable players on the weak side. White has to make a decision quickly to have any chance at stopping the Thunder from scoring. White does not move fast enough and Dort gets an uncontested look from deep.
The shot motion is nice and smooth. Dort does not elevate much on his jumper; it is a controlled movement upwards. Dort’s guide hand is lightly applied to the ball. Lu pulls his guide hand off the ball as the shot is released. His technique means there is no distortion on the shot’s trajectory.
The Thunder go from defense to offense quickly in this possession. The transition opportunity stems from Lu Dort’s defensive activity creating turnovers. Dort’s commitment to defense is impressive in today’s NBA.
Over the last few years, defense has become devalued. Other aspects of the game such as spacing and offensive efficiency have been prioritised by coaching staffs around the league. It is common to see young players hunting for highlights on offense instead of exerting effort on defense.
Dort’s strong defense comes from his disruptive style of play. Lu does not allow his assignment to get comfortable on offense. Dort is always looking to use his frame to bother opposing players into inefficient scoring nights. This aggressive, physical defense makes it difficult for a quality player to find their flow.
Luguentz Dort matches up with DeMar DeRozan on this possession. DeRozan is one of the most complete interior scorers in the league. DeMar can hit from anywhere inside the arc at an efficient rate. The only real weakness in his game would be DeRozan’s reluctance to take deep shots.
Once DeRozan is inside the arc, it is a case of picking your poison on the defense. DeRozan is comfortable pulling up for the mid-range jumper. He is equally happy driving to the rim and finishing with a flashy dunk. Dort makes the right decision on this possession defensively.
Lu uses his frame to prevent an easy baseline drive. Dort stretches his arms and widens his base. The space that DeRozan can dribble into becomes very small and a baseline dribble becomes an inefficient look.
That option is taken off the table and DeRozan flows into a post up situation. The post up is the worst option for DeMar. DeRozan does not have easy relief passes to the wing available. He is committed to taking on the shot himself. DeRozan is isolated and becomes an easy target for the Thunder defense to pick off.
DeRozan has a few choices out of the post up. DeMar can spin around and knock down a fadeaway jump shot. This is a look that DeRozan converts at a strong rate. DeMar ignores this option and chooses to back down Dort.
Dort’s strength comes to the fore on this possession. DeRozan attempts to bump Dort off his spot and Lu does not move at all. Dort absorbs the contact and maintains close proximity to DeRozan.
DeRozan is unable to create the space needed to turn the corner. Dort is stuck to his back and is able to make a strong play defensively. As DeMar turns, Dort knocks the ball away from the Spurs forward. Dort creates the turnover and Oklahoma City are able to run out in transition.
Schroder brings the ball up the court and scans the floor as he looks to find the open man. Dort plays as a trailer on this possession and paces his run carefully. It is a smart decision by Dort as the slow run allows him to find space on the perimeter.
DeMar DeRozan has sprinted back down the court and is located near the free throw line. The Spurs anticipate a drive from Schroder and position the defense to take away an easy look at the rim. All five Spurs’ players are situated inside the arc.
The 3-point line is left wide open and Dort is able to get a clean look from the right break. The shooting motion is similar to the previous example but there is a key difference between the shot attempts. The shot’s trajectory is much higher than the last example.
Shots with a lot of arc are not necessarily a bad thing; high trajectory shots have a greater probability of the shot bouncing off the rim into the hoop. However, the vastly different shooting forms do provide cause for concern.
It is impossible to become consistent and reliable from deep if the shot form is not repeatable. This is an issue that Dort needs to correct over the offseason if he wants to put himself in pole position for a long-term future for the Thunder.
Lu Dort played point guard at Arizona State and he showed some playmaking ability. Dort was able to find his guys with good reads on occasion but he lacked consistency as a shot creator. Dort made a lot of bad mistakes on offense.
Luguentz Dort averaged 3.7 turnovers per game during his time in Tempe. There were a lot of ill-advised passes and missed reads. The frequency of mistakes suggested that Luguentz Dort would not have a future as a ball-handler in the league.
However, Dort still views himself as a point guard and has shown improvement in this department. During the course of the season, Luguentz Dort has shown an ability to create his own shot and make basic reads. The key question for Dort is consistency, he has to make the right play more often in game situations.
The Thunder secure the rebound and Dort is the ball-handler bringing the ball up court. The Spurs’ defense is weakly constructed. There are three San Antonio players standing on the perimeter watching the ball. Nobody is tracking the run of Mike Muscala.
Muscala runs free into wide open space. Mike is located near the rim with no defenders anywhere near him. Muscala is an open target and Dort makes the right read. Luguentz Dort plays vertically and lobs the ball over the defense.
It is an excellent decision by Dort. Muscala is an efficient option and he is capable of knocking down this look. The technical aspects of the pass are fundamentally sound. The weight of the pass is judged accurately and it is easy for Muscala to make the catch.
I do think that Dort could have placed the ball slightly lower. The toss is a little too high for Muscala and it is difficult for Mike to corral the ball. Great shot creators put the ball in good spots for their teammates to finish.
Dort is a good defender and his effectiveness comes from his ability to play different roles on defense. Luguentz Dort’s value comes from his on-ball defense but he has grown as an off-ball threat as well. In this possession, Dort reads the play and finds an opportunity to steal the ball from the Spurs.
Dejounte Murray drives to the rim and is stifled by the defense. The Thunder execute a trap scheme on Murray. The Thunder enclose Murray and encourage the Spurs’ guard to dish the ball.
Danilo Gallinari and Chris Paul both sag off their assignments and pack the paint. There are four Thunder players in the painted area and there is no outlet ball for Murray. Aldridge is not in a position to receive the pass. The toss to the corner would be intercepted by Gallo. The only option available is a dish to the break.
Dort realises that the options are limited for Murray and moves quickly. He steps back slightly and springs up in the air. Dort deflects the pass away from the intended target with ease. His athleticism allowed him to complete the play but it was his reading of the game which created the opportunity.
The deflection takes the ball away from Dort and he has to chase the ball down. Dort shows tenacity on this possession as he beats the Spurs’ player to the ball. Dort is able to dribble away from Bryn Forbes and gets an easy layup.
It is a brilliant stop by Dort and something for him to work on. Lu is capable of lurking in the lane and picking off passes with good efficiency. The key for Dort is learning when to attack weak points in the opposing team.
Dort has shown a lot of promise as a rookie but there is plenty of room for improvement. I believe that Dort can become a playmaker who can run the offense for possessions at a time. I also believe that Dort is capable of becoming a serviceable threat from deep.
It will not be easy for Dort to build his skill level in these aspects of the game. It will take time and hours of diligent work. Marcus Smart is a player that Dort should study closely. Smart came into the league as a very good defensive player with a wonky shot.
Smart has improved his shooting percentages hugely in the past few years. Smart is now a serious threat from downtown. Smart is an invaluable player for the Celtics due to his versatility on the court.
Smart is happy to defend all five positions, find teammates for looks and knock down shots from deep. He is one of the best glue guys in the NBA. Dort can become this kind of player; he has the size and instincts for it.