Signed, sealed and delivering: ASU’s Dort debuts with Thunder in Summer League

Luguentz Dort (center) wasn’t drafted, but he signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder and showcased his defensive skills in the NBA Summer League. (Photo by Sebastian Emanuel/Cronkite News)

LAS VEGAS – Things didn’t go Luguentz Dort’s way on NBA draft day, but he’s still living the dream of playing professionally.

Announced before the team’s first game of Summer League competition on Saturday, the Arizona State product signed a two-way contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Then he played 17 minutes, finishing with four points (2 of 5 from the field), two rebounds, two steals and two dunks in a loss to Utah at Cox Pavilion.

He also earned praise from the Thunder’s Summer League coach, Dave Bliss.

“Lu’s just got that bulldog mentality,” Bliss said. “You guys saw it today, really hawking the ball, and he’s got a great frame. Can stay in front … and even block some shots. A switchable guy who can go down there and hold his own if guys try to lock him in the post.”

Dort, after announcing that he would forgo his final three years of eligibility on April 10, put all his focus on his dream of making it to the NBA. But he wasn’t selected in the 2019 NBA Draft, which Dort attended with ASU coach Bobby Hurley and teammate Zylan Cheatham.

Questions started to loom as to where Dort would go.

Did he make a big mistake? Why leave a good ASU team?

After the draft, the Thunder came calling.

“The fact that I went undrafted, I knew teams would still want me,” Dort said. “The fact that OKC was the first one for me, I took it right away.”

The two-way contract is a recent addition to the NBA, giving players an opportunity to spend a maximum of 45 days with the NBA team. Dort also will play for the Thunder’s G-League team, the Oklahoma City Blue. Each team is allowed two players on two-way contracts in addition to the standard 15 on the roster.

“They gave me an opportunity for a one-year two-way contract,” Dort said. “I’m really excited to play with the guys and the teams, the Thunder and the Blue. I’m excited to get better.”

Even after Saturday’s 78-66 loss to the Jazz, Dort said he was pleased.

“It was a great run,” he said. “I feel like I did a pretty good job on defense and offensively, too. Getting good stops and running the floor and finishing at the basket.”

Dort has been known for his defensive prowess and specifically his ball-hawking skills, finishing with 52 steals in his lone season at ASU. His mindset as a defender stood out during his short college career.

“The fact that I’m really fast and can read (the pass),” Dort said. “I leave a little early and see the opponent make the pass and I’m ready to steal it. It’s some stuff I’ve been working on and I’m learning every day.”

As Dort learns every day as a member of the Thunder, he’ll work to up his offensive game, too.

“(He’s) a nice developing player offensively,” Bliss said. “He’s got a pretty good driving game and actually a better passer than people give him credit for, so we are excited for Lu for sure.”

Dort has moved on from draft night and the agony of defeat as he looks to continue impressing the Thunder and show 29 other teams what they missed.

The Thunder’s next Summer League game is Monday at noon, Arizona time, against the Philadelphia 76ers.

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