January 30, 2023

The Oklahoma City Thunder are currently a game under .500, one win away from matching their winning totals from a season ago. They are currently just one game away from the sixth seed to avoid the play-in tournament altogether and are tied for one play-in spot at the moment. As we rack our brains to figure out how the OKC Thunder pulls off these wins, it’s easy to overlook the difference Lu Dort makes.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander plays at the MVP level, averaging 30 points, five assists and five rebounds per game while shooting 51 percent from the floor, 35 percent from threes and 90 percent from the line to nearly keep up with a block and two steals per game.

Since December, Josh Giddey has been averaging 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists a night with over a half block and a half steal per game. 51 percent are shot from the ground and 38 percent from the three-point line, and free throws are knocked down with a clip of 91 percent.

The two have figured out how to get together, which makes sense as they’ve finally been given time to play together after both guards were injured last season. it’s easy to credit the duo, along with Mark Daigneault, with recent success. They’ve also received strong contributions from Kenrich Williams, Isaiah Joe is a sharpshooter and Aaron Wiggins is still undefeated on the starting lineup.

Lu Dort makes all the difference for the Oklahoma City Thunder when he shoots the ball well

While all of the above reasons for the surprise season deserve a lot of credit, it’s easy to lose sight of what Lu Dort does night after night.

In every game, Dort’s job is to defend the opposing team’s top scorer and eliminate players like Jamal Murray when they’re capable of winning late in the game. While Arizona State’s product isn’t perfect, rim refinement is still lacking and some questionable decisions are made with the ball in his hands, that’s the key to success for the OKC Thunder when he emerges from beyond the arc.

If Lu Dort hits over 50 percent of his three-pointers on any given night, the Oklahoma City Thunder can boast an 8-5 record, suffering two of those seven-point losses.

There, the league leads in offensive fouls with 63 to 46 games, the NBA record for that statistic is 99 when Anderson Varejao pulled it off in the 2006-07 season. The 23-year-old Canadian also ranks third in the NBA in loose ball recovery at 43.

From setting the pace, hitting threes and blocking stars to creating possessions, Dort does it all as the Swiss army knife for OKC.

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