There are a lot of great defenders in the NBA, but Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard believes that Oklahoma City Thunder wing Lu Dort is the best in the league.
The star guard said as much recently.
“Lu Dort,” Lillard said. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it. And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.”
Dort has been a consistent starter for the young and exciting Thunder this season — starting in 68 of the 69 games he’s played in — and he’s done a little bit of everything for the team.
On the season, he’s averaging 13.7 points, 4.5 boards, 2.1 assists and 1.0 steal per game, but when it comes to his defense, it goes deeper than the stats.
“It’s like he is a wall on wheels,” Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said. “You are not turning the corner on him. The [Kawhi] Leonard play the other night – we’ve seen that countless times in game flow, where it’s like: ‘You are not going anywhere.’ It’s incredible.”
That “wall on wheels” was on full display during a recent game in which Dort essentially secured a win single-handedly by locking up Leonard. The tenacity displayed by Dort in the game was something that his teammates — and competitors — have come to expect.
“I just know what I’m dealing with,” Lillard said of facing off against the Thunder and Dort. “With a guy like him, I go at him first, so he knows he isn’t going to come in here thinking he is the boss of this s—. He’s going to have to be on his job, and he’s going to have to know that from the beginning.”
Dort is just one of the reasons why the Thunder are seen as being ahead of schedule in their ongoing rebuild. Though the team had one of the worst records in the league last season at 24-58, it is now in the thick of the postseason race in the Western Conference.
The Thunder are currently projected to be the last team to advance to the play-in tournament in the West.
That is especially encouraging for fans of the team considering the Thunder have done it all without the No. 2 overall pick from the 2022 NBA Draft, Chet Holmgren.
Once again, the future seems quite bright in Oklahoma City. This is arguably the most promising the team has looked since it had the homegrown star trio of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant and James Harden early on in their careers.
Now, with just six games left on their schedule to round out the 2022-23 regular season, Dort and the Thunder will look to close things strongly so that they can get a taste of postseason basketball for the first time since 2020.