After the dust settled on what was a hectic 2019 NBA Draft, the attention quickly turned to the various prospects that weren’t selected. Due to the increased amount of underclassmen that declared this year, there were more intriguing undrafted prospects that were college stars just a few months prior. That group of players was headlined by stud Gonzaga alum Zach Norvell, 19-year-old high school graduate Jalen Lecque, LSU stretch big Naz Reid and former St. John’s guard Shamorie Ponds.
In the hours following the 60th overall pick, each one of those players and many other undrafted prospects had their immediate basketball future become more of a certainty as they were all signed to some kind of NBA deal. An example of that is former Arizona State guard Luguentz Dort, who stood as one of the Pac 12’s best guards in his lone collegiate season.
As a freshman, the 6’4 guard put up a team-high 16.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals on 41% from the field and 31% from beyond the arc on 5.2 attempts in 31 minutes per game. With those numbers, he stood as the offensive leader for an Arizona State squad that finished 2nd in the Pac 12. That performance unsurprisingly pushed the freshman to receive a bevy of accolades which included him being named to the conference’s All-Second and All-Defensive Team. In addition to those two awards, the 6’6 guard was also named as the Pac 12’s Freshman of the Year.
Dort’s ability to lead a Power Five team to solid success during his freshman year vaulted the young player to immediately become a draft prospect. Following the NBA lottery, Dort was projected to be selected anyone where from 22nd to 31st from major NBA Draft experts. While that’s not at the level of fellow freshmen like Zion Williamson or RJ Barrett, those projections made the young guard confident enough to stay in the draft pool rather than go back to Arizona State for his sophomore season. Obviously, that wouldn’t be the case as the 6’5 guard would end up not getting selected in the following month’s draft.
For a player that has neither had character concerns or health issues during his freshman season, that descension unquestionably surprised a lot of people including Arizona State head coach Bobby Hurley. While NBA teams were looking to select the young player late in the 2nd round for a potential draft-and-stash, a great piece from the Athletic noted that agent Chris Emens and Dort decided to take another method. Just minutes after the end of the draft, that plan became clear as the OKC Thunder signed the young guard to a two-way deal.
Under that contract, Dort will have an opportunity to spend up to 45 days in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder where he’ll be receiving the rookie minimum. While that chance to play with the Thunder will always be on the table, the Arizona State alum will probably be spending most, if not all, of his rookie year in the G League with the OKC Blue. That’ll be beneficial from a financial perspective as he’ll receive $79,568 for a year at the minor league level, a significant improvement on the $35,000 that players on average G League deals would receive.
From the moment that he puts on an OKC Blue, Dort might immediately stand as the most intriguing two-way prospect in the G League. That mindset comes from several different factors which covers the gamut from physical build, athleticism, offensive talents and defensive aggression/awareness. Despite only turning 20 in April, he’s already built like an NFL strong safety by standing at a 6’4 and 222 pounds with a very nice 6’9 wingspan. In association with that strong frame, the guard has explosive athleticism with fantastic acceleration and solid hops.
Luckily, the 20-year-old guard has already recognized how to effectively utilize both that solid frame and great athleticism on both ends of the ball. From an offensive perspective, he constantly stands as a threat to get to the rim, whether he’s working off or on-ball. From that first perspective, the young guard really flourishes with a quick burst and is able to recognize when to cut to the rim. That knack combined with his great hands and hops, Dort is a tremendous target for alley-oops.
From an on-ball perspective, he maintains a tremendous first step that allowed him to get past most Pac 12 defenders. After getting around that initial defender, Dort has multiple tools that allow him to really amaze. If there’s a defender standing between him and the paint, he can use a side step, crossover or spin move to maneuver around them.
That same confidence persists if there’s a big waiting for him as he’s definitely not afraid to drive into traffic and use his strong frame and wingspan to try to score in contact. Emphasis on “try” as he only shot 53% from within the restricted area during his freshman season, according to the Stepien’s shot chart. His effort did allow him to make frequent trips to the free throw line, as he shot 70% on 6.1 attempts per game.
Getting to the rim isn’t the way that Dort can utilize his solid frame on the offensive end is as a facilitator. That really isn’t evident when you look at his numbers as he had 2.3 assists per game with a lackluster .8 Ast/TO ratio. While that low Ast/TO ratio is largely due to his struggles as a decision-maker, he’s shown some occasional glimpses of being a playmaker, especially in the drive-and-kick. In that area, he’s able to use his skills as a driver to capture the attention of the defense before dishing it to off-ball cutters or front-court players that are waiting in the paint. While this is currently a small part of his game, improving in this area and evolving into a backup distributor would do a lot to make him into a better all-around offensive player.
Speaking of areas where he’ll have to improve on, Dort was a below-average perimeter threat as he shot 31% from beyond the arc on 5.2 attempts per game. Those struggles probably have something to do with its sky-high arc as it just hangs in the air. While he was inconsistent, it doesn’t deter his confidence as the young guard loves being able to use his slick handles and quick feet to launch step-back jumpers. As you can see from this clip, everything looks beautiful when those shots actually land.
Although solid on the offensive end due to his ability to get to the paint whenever he desires, a lot of his upside as a player honestly comes on the defense end. Some of that is seen from base numbers as he had 1.5 steals per game, which placed him fifth in the Pac 12. Dort can accomplish that kind of thievery whether working on-ball or working the passing lanes.
In regards to that first trait, he can quickly snatch the ball from the opposing guard’s hands if they’re starting to drive to the paint or just futzing around on the perimeter. Meanwhile, the quick burst that the young guard shows as a driver is effective when it comes to working the passing lanes as he runs to intercept the pass before taking the ball up the court in transition.
When he isn’t working the passing lanes, Dort is still able to shine on this end of the floor through being to effectively defender opposing ball-handlers. While his strong frame and athleticism definitely helped him contain Pac 12 guards, the 20-year-old player has the awareness that you usually don’t see from players his age. That’s seen from how he’s able to latch onto the ball-handler like velcro no matter if they’re working around off-ball screens or switching hands when they’re driving to the rim.
Does the Arizona State alum weaknesses as a player? Absolutely. The 6’5 guard currently stands as a below-average shooter and regularly has a one-track mind when it comes to driving to the rim, even when there’s open teammates hanging out on the perimeter. In addition to that, Dort has his moments where he goes off his man and overhelps on another ball-handler. That penchant can lead to trouble as that opposing gard can just kick it out to the shooter that the Arizona State alum left wide open.
However, those issues don’t really deter from the fact that Dort is a bruising 6’4, 222 pound guard with tremendous handles that allowed him to get to the rim whenever he desires, effectively defend multiple positions and just works his ass off whenever he’s on the court. With those traits, the Arizona State alum should immediately stand out with the OKC Blue as the G League is based around up-tempo, transition-oriented basketball.
So while he’ll need to progress as a shooter and become more unselfish offensively, there’s a tremendous chance that Luguentz Dort can immediately come in and shine as one of the best two-way guards in the G League when he makes his debut with the OKC Ble in November.