Oklahoma City Thunder: Assessing the value of guard Luguentz Dort

The Oklahoma City Thunder are in year two of their rebuild and are in the midst of a nine-game skid with a 6-15 record. The franchise suffered the biggest loss in NBA history on Thursday night, losing 152-79 to the Memphis Grizzlies in embarrassing fashion. Despite this, one of the Thunder’s bright spots has been the play of Luguentz Dort who is extension eligible this upcoming offseason.

Oklahoma City Thunder: Assessing the value of guard Luguentz Dort

The emergence of an Undrafted Free Agent

Dort is a terrific feel-good story and has established himself as a promising prospect. At just 22-years-old, the Canadian is averaging a career-high 16.9 points on 43-32-86 shooting splits. His greatest improvement has been converting on shots 0-3 feet, finishing at a 69.4 percent rate this season compared to 54.6 percent last season. It’s still early but an encouraging sign for Dort who earned the reputation of being one of the NBA’s worst finishers at the cup last year.

Defensively, Dort is one of the best on-ball defenders in the association. He can guard one through three and some fours, using his size, strength, and exceptional foot speed to stay in front of his defensive assignments. The 22-year-old made his mark as a rookie, giving James Harden fits in the 2020 playoffs. Dort has continued his defensive excellence taking on the toughest assignments every night, especially in crunch time.

Against the Sacramento Kings, Dort made a stellar defensive play on the final possession of the game. With the game tied at 124, Dort picks the pocket of De’Aaron Fox and goes all the way for the go-ahead bucket.

This play exemplifies who he is as a player – a high motor, hustle machine. What’s the market for this type of player?

Offensive Consistency is a need for the Oklahoma City Thunder

Dort can receive an extension this offseason but his value is extremely difficult to quantify. He’s viewed as a three-and-D wing but has yet to really earn that title. Dort is a career 32 percent three-point shooter and is extremely streaky. He will go through periods where he cannot miss and put up ludicrous shooting stat lines.

In the 2020 Playoffs versus the Houston Rockets, the Canadian posted 30 points (10-21 shooting and 6-12 from 3) while guarding superstar Harden as a rookie. Prior to this burst, Dort landed only seven triples from 38 attempts but really put on a show to almost pull off the upset of the finals. Since then, he’s shown flashes of offense including five straight 20-point games this season.

As mentioned earlier, Dort has increased his efficiency at the cup considerably to 69.4 percent. If this trend renders true, he’s becoming a threat going to the cup and teams will need to respect him when he attacks closeouts off the dribble.

Lu Dort’s size is a double-edged sword

The other concern is his overall size. Listed at 6’3, 219 pounds with a 6’8 wingspan, Dort has great physical tools as a guard and is built like a Greek demi-god. Against power guards like Harden and Donovan Mitchell, Dort has been fantastic.

However, against smaller, quicker guards Dort struggles mightily.

Dort is also tasked with taking on matchups like Jayson Tatum and Paul George but that is just unfair. Both are 6’10 and 6’9 respectively, tough shot makers and simply shoot over him. He is the Thunder’s best defender but these kind’s of assignments are brutal.

Questions surround Dort’s fit with Oklahoma City Thunder’s core

The other issue with Dort is his fit with franchise centerpiece Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and rookie Josh Giddey. Gilgeous-Alexander is a paint-heavy guard who leads the league in drives. The 23-year-old is a fantastic isolation player who excels in the paint and kicks to find open shooters. Dort has shown an improvement shooting the ball from three but he’s just a career 33-percent three-point shooter.

Giddey is a rookie whose primary skill is running an offense and creating for others but his shot is non-existent at this stage. Dort could work next to Gilgeous-Alexander or Giddey but next to both it’s tough sledding. Giddey is a sub-30-percent three-point shooter thus space for Giddey and Gilgeous-Alexander is virtually non-existent.

Dort has improved vastly finishing at the cup, his desire to go inside and lack of three-point stroke makes the fit clunky.

What is he worth?

Three and D prospects are some of the most valuable players in the NBA, receiving some massive extensions over the past few seasons. Let’s take a look at four notable contracts given in the past three seasons:

These contracts offer some insight into the going rate for wing prospects in the NBA and should only be treated as a bearing. Another aspect to factor in is the influx of TV money slated to arrive in 2025. The NBA is aiming for a brand new $75-billion dollar TV deal and a spike in the cap is expected. How much per season will be determined by the NBPA who will need to decide between cap smoothing or sudden spike as seen in 2016.

With some of these factors in mind, a four-year, $60-$72-million is potentially on the table. With his improvement as an offensive player and excellent on-ball skills, there is a market for Dort to exploit. In my personal opinion, I would need to see more consistency from the three-point line so a deal somewhere in the $15-$16-million per season is reasonable.

Final Thoughts

Oklahoma City is a small market and it’s difficult to find fans who love their team more than those in the Mid-West. Dort is also a cult hero so the Thunder may be in a tough spot should they let him walk. Sam Presti is one of the best in the business and Thunder fans can trust that he will get something done.

Whatever the two parties decide on, it will surely be a handsome reward for a player who took the hard road and worked his tail off to get to where he is now.

Main Image: Embed from Getty Images