Despite initially signing with the Thunder as a Two-Way Player and expecting to spend most of his time with the OKC Blue, Luguentz Dort’s tireless effort on defense quickly made him an invaluable presence in the NBA. He started 28 of 36 appearances during the regular season, and given his calling card, it should have come as no surprise that he was tasked with defending James Harden — the NBA’s leading scorer — for much of OKC’s first-round playoff series against the Rockets.
Dort never once looked intimidated by the challenge of trying to contain his fellow former Arizona Sun Devil. Naturally, while most of the spotlight was on Harden, Dort’s blood hound like-nature (the same kind of grit and grind he exhibited while in the NBA G League) made him the story as he impressed on the national stage and did all he could to throw the league’s leading-scorer off his game.
The young gun’s persistence helped the Thunder combat the Rockets — a team, of course led by Harden and former NBA MVP Russell Westbrook — through a seven-game series for the ages. Though Dort had eyes on him for six games due to his chasing around of Harden, it wasn’t until Game 7 that he splashed onto the scene with an all the more refreshing skill: the ability to make it rain.
✅ 1st undrafted rookie to score 30 PTS in a postseason game
✅ most points scored in a Game 7 by an undrafted player (since '66)
— NBA G League (@nbagleague) September 3, 2020
Dort erupted for 30 points (on six three pointers), rising up as OKC’s leading scorer in the ever pivotal matchup. NBA G League alums have certainly been known to make their marks at the next level with clutch postseason performances in recent years (with the likes of Danny Green, Quinn Cook, Fred VanVleet, and Pascal Siakam among them) and it’s safe to say Dort should be remembered in similar fashion following his historic outing.
- Dort became the first undrafted rookie to score 30 points in a playoff game.
- His 30 points were the most scored by an undrafted player in a Game 7 playoff matchup
- He scored the third-most points by a rookie in a Game 7
- Dort is now one of three players 21 years old or younger (the other two being LeBron James and Kobe Bryant) to score 25+ points in a playoff game.
- Dort’s six three-point field goals in a game are now an OKC franchise postseason-high, surpassing five by Vladimir Radmanovic on 05/01/2002 (Seattle Supersonics).
Though Game 7 (and the series itself) ended in defeat for the Thunder, the team has uncovered quite the hidden gem in Dort. With the Blue, Dort averaged 19.5 points on 44% from the field and 33% from deep to go with 1.1 steal through 13 games. No stat jumps off the page quite like his 30-piece in Game 7, but it’s clear (thanks in major part to his defense) that Dort’s impact can potentially go well beyond the box score. That’s par for the course with NBA G League alums, who are prepared and often expected to do whatever it takes, whenever their number is called.
Dort’s versatility and ability to performance under the brightest lights on this big stage should make for a promising future.