When the season shut down in March, we turned in our 2019-20 season report card knowing that basketball as we knew it was concluding for a long while. That’s how the NBA handled their 2019-20 awards as well–only counting the games played before the pandemic suspension in awards voting. But basketball did come back, and the Thunder’s players earned bonus points over the final stretch.
New Grade: A
Luguentz Dort’s 30 point masterpiece in Game 7 was one of the most unexpected moments of the entire NBA playoffs and served as the exclamation point to cap off a remarkable season. An undrafted rookie, Dort earned his starting role through suffocating defense. After shutting down James Harden all series, Dort has a legitimate claim as one of the best one-on-one perimeter defenders in the league.
Standing just 6’3, Dort embodies many of the Rockets’ own defensive principles, as his incredibly strong frame makes up for what he lacks in height. Possessing great lateral quickness, Dort was able to keep Harden in front of him on the drive while also refusing to allow the former MVP to power through his robust frame. With Dort as the primary defender, Harden shot an abysmal 17-54 (31.5%) from the field and an even worse 10-38 (26.3%) from deep.
Even when the ball did not bounce his way, Dort remained fearless. Despite shooting a combined 7-38 from deep in his first five appearances in the series, Dort knocked down 6 of his 12 triples when Oklahoma City needed them the most in Game 7. While his offensive outburst in Game 7 will forever remain one of the iconic games of Dort’s young career, the Thunder recognized his profound defensive impact when they signed him to one of the most team-friendly deals in the NBA. Through those impeccable defensive skills and constant effort, Luguentz Dort elevated from an undrafted rookie to a former MVP’s worst nightmare.