Season retrospective: Lu Dort

Season retrospective: Lu Dort

All things considered, it was a successful season for Lu Dort. He continued to establish himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA and showed promise to be a league-average 3-point shooter (especially from the corners). 

Dort’s crowning achievement came when he hit a game-winning 3-pointer to beat the Spurs in Oklahoma City back in February. It was inarguably the happiest moment of the Thunder’s first rebuilding season:

Here’s a more detailed look back at his sophomore campaign:

Most exciting development

This is obvious, but Dort’s league-average(ish) 3-point shooting translating at volume is a big deal. He made 34.3 percent of his long distance shots this year on an average of 6.3 attempts per game. That’s not going to land him in the 3-point contest at All-Star Weekend, but it will keep opponents from leaving him unguarded on the perimeter — which is all the Thunder really need from him offensively. 

Looking elsewhere, the numbers say Dort made an improvement as a secondary creator. His assist numbers jumped from 0.8 per game to 1.7 per game. His turnover percentage jumped slightly (8.4 percent to 10 percent) but not as much as his usage rate (14.1 percent to 21.7 percent). 

Most concerning development

Dort’s shooting showed improvement, but it also showed a level of streakiness that’s not ideal. Here are his month-by-month 3-point shooting splits:

  • December (4 games): 47.8 percent
  • January (14 games): 35.4 percent
  • February (15 games): 26.7 percent
  • March (8 games): 32.0 percent
  • April (7 games): 46.3 percent
  • May (4 games): 26.7 percent

There wasn’t much month-to-month consistency in what OKC could expect to get from Dort outside the arc. That’s somewhat to-be-expected in a young player, and it’s a trait that’s sometimes found in 3-and-D players (see Green, Danny). However, it’s a clear sign of something Dort needs to improve in 2021-22. 

Dort is also still pretty inefficient as a scorer. His true shooting percentage this season saw only a modest jump, from 50.6 percent as a rooke to 51.3 percent this season. That’s well below league average, but that’s to be expected when you shoot 38.7 percent from the floor. Nearly 20 percent of Dort’s shots came from between 3 and 10 feet, and he shot just 29.6 percent on those attempts. Removing (most of) those mid-range attempts from his shot profile should result in better efficiency next season. 

How his season will be remembered

This was a “prove it” year for Dort, and he did just that. He showed that the flashes of ‘Marcus Smart 2.0’ that we saw in the Bubble last year were real. His defense got even better and he improved in multiple areas on offense. At certain points, Dort was asked to be the primary creator for OKC because of SGA’s injury — and he showed flashes of that potentially working, too. 

Hopefully for Dort’s sake, there’s another leap to be made next season. If there is, look for the beginnings of more improvement as he plays for Team Canada this summer in the Olympic qualifying tournament and — hopefully, eventually — the Olympics.

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