The Thunder’s season kicks off on Oct. 25 against the Chicago Bulls. After a surprising 40-42 campaign that ended a win shy of the playoffs, OKC enters this year with playoff aspirations.
Let’s assign three goals for Lu Dort, who will enter the season penciled in as a starter. The 24-year-old has established himself as one of the better perimeter defenders in the league, but question marks on offense make him a controversial figure.
In 74 games last season, he averaged 13.7 points on 38.8% shooting, 4.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists.
Win defensive accolades
Since entering the league, Dort had quickly established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders. His large frame makes him a difficult challenge for opposing players on and off the ball.
This is his bread and butter. Dort’s defense is the biggest reason why he’s gone from undrafted rookie to a key starter of a playoff contender.
Which makes his lack of accolades more puzzling. Despite being in the league for four seasons, Dort has yet to make an All-Defensive Team or win a Defensive Player of the Year award.
The former is more likely to happen than the latter this upcoming season. Especially with the Thunder playing more national TV games. If the Thunder are in the midst of the playoff hunt, Dort should receive his flowers.
Improve rim finishing
This has been a problem for Dort for his entire career but last season saw him reach new lows. On shots 0-3 feet from the basket, he shot 52.1% — a career low. This type of inefficiency on the easiest shots is pretty indefensible.
What makes this number sting more is that Dort took 30.1% of his shot attempts in that area — the second-highest percentage of his shot attempts behind 3-pointers (46.8%).
Being inefficient on nearly one-third of your shots can create disadvantages for your team as a whole. It can cause opposing teams to essentially invite Dort to shoot the ball as often as he wants.
Dort will need to continue to improve on his finishing around the basket as it’s proven to be a hindrance for him. If he continues to shoot this poorly around the rim, it’s hard to justify keeping him on the court for long stretches.
Get used to the idea of coming off the bench
While he’ll likely be penciled in as a starter for opening night, Dort is the most likely of the five starters to eventually come off the bench.
It’s hard to envision it happening this season since there’s no real threat on the roster — but if someone on the bench has a surprisingly productive season, then Dort would be the odd man out of the starting lineup.
This means that the 24-year-old should likely get used to the idea that he can come off the bench. Since arriving in OKC, that’s rarely been the case — he’s started 204 of 213 career games.
But with several lottery talents on the bench, OKC’s young talent can force its hands to reconsider the starting five — or at the very least, change it up every now and then.