Luguentz Dort

Luguentz Dort To Re-Sign With Thunder On Five-Year Deal

The Thunder are re-signing restricted free agent Luguentz Dort to a five-year, $87.5MM contract, Dort’s agent Thad Foucher tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

The barrel-chested Dort, who turned 23 in April, has showed continuous improvement after going undrafted out of Arizona State in 2019. He averaged 6.8 PPG and 2.3 RPG on .394/.297/.792 shooting in 36 games (22.8 MPG) as a rookie, with those averages increasing to 14 PPG and 3.6 RPG on .387/.343/.744 shooting in 2020/21 (52 games, 29.7 MPG).

Dort averaged 17.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG on .404/.332/.843 shooting in 51 games (32.6 MPG) last season. His shooting numbers seem fairly mediocre, but the majority of Dort’s shots come from three or at the rim, and he gets to the line a good amount, so his 54.1% true shooting percentage is actually decent.

Dort’s hallmark comes on the defensive end of the court, where his strength, toughness and versatility really shine. He’s an excellent athlete with a strong frame (6’3″, 215 pounds) and is capable of switching across multiple positions.

A report last week indicated that Oklahoma City would pick up Dort’s team option for ’22/23, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent in 2023, but clearly they had a change of heart after examining the amount of salary cap space rival teams will have next summer. Instead the Thunder chose to decline the option, making him a restricted free agent.

The modern NBA is dominated by wings capable of playing both sides of the ball, so his contract aligns with the value teams place on players of his mold. Considering his trajectory and the fact that he’s only entering his fourth season, there’s a good chance that it will be a very reasonable deal for both sides for years to come.

Thunder’s Luguentz Dort To Become Restricted Free Agent

The Thunder are declining the $1,930,681 team option on Luguentz Dort, making him a restricted free agent, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium (Twitter link).

A report last week indicated that Oklahoma City would pick up the option, with GM Sam Presti telling Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman that was the likely outcome.

“Obviously it’s our plan to exercise that pending anything different,” Presti said.

Evidently Presti has reevaluated that decision, which isn’t very surprising considering Dort would have drawn considerable interest on the open market as an unrestricted free agent in 2023. Declining the option and making him restricted gives the Thunder the ability to match any offer sheet he receives in a free agent market where not many teams have cap space.

The barrel-chested Dort, who turned 23 in April, has showed continuous improvement after going undrafted out of Arizona State in 2019. He averaged 17.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG on .404/.332/.843 shooting in 51 games (32.6 MPG) last season while playing solid, switchable defense.

Given his rate of improvement and the NBA’s ever-growing need for wings who can contribute on both ends of the court, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Dort sign a contract in the range of $15-20MM annually. Dort is ranked No. 9 on our list of top 50 free agents.

Thunder Expect To Pick Up Luguentz Dort’s Option For 2022/23

The Thunder are planning to exercise Luguentz Dort‘s team option for next season, tweets Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Dort is set to make $1,930,681 in the final season of a four-year deal he signed as a rookie.

Oklahoma City has until June 29 to reach a decision on Dort’s option, but general manager Sam Presti told Mussatto that all signs point to picking it up.

“Obviously it’s our plan to exercise that pending anything different,” Presti said.

Dort put up career-best numbers this season with 17.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG in 51 games, but his season was cut short by a shoulder injury in mid-February.

While Dort is obviously a major bargain on a $1.93MM salary, there was some question about whether or not the Thunder would pick up his option due to his contract situation. He could become a restricted free agent if the team declined that option, whereas if his option is picked up, he’ll be eligible for unrestricted free agency in 2023.

Dort would become trade-eligible if his option is exercised. There were multiple reports before the draft that the Trail Blazers had interest in acquiring the 24-year-old swingman.

Stein’s Latest: Clifford, Hornets, Pistons, Jazz, More

As the Hornets resume their head coaching search following Kenny Atkinson‘s decision to back out of an agreement with the team, Marc Stein suggests in his latest Substack column that a surprising name may be on Charlotte’s radar.

According to Stein, there’s some “serious mounting buzz” that Steve Clifford, who coached the Hornets from 2013-18, has emerged as a candidate to replace James Borrego. Charlotte is reportedly in the market for a candidate with previous head coaching experience and is certainly familiar with Clifford. He took the club to the postseason in 2014 and 2016 — those are the Hornets’ only playoff appearances since 2010.

Mike D’Antoni, who was said to be meeting with Hornets owner Michael Jordan this week, was a finalist during the initial search appears to still be in contention for the job. There have been conflicting reports on whether Terry Stotts was also a finalist before the team reached a deal with Atkinson — Stein writes that D’Antoni was the “only other known finalist” at that point.

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Confirming that the Pistons are expected to pursue Suns RFA center Deandre Ayton, Stein says Ayton would embrace the idea of teaming up with Cade Cunningham in Detroit. Stein adds that Miles Bridges and Collin Sexton are believed to be ahead of Jalen Brunson on the Pistons’ list of other potential free agent targets. Both Bridges and Sexton will be restricted free agents, while Brunson will be unrestricted.
  • There’s an increasing belief in coaching circles that Jazz CEO Danny Ainge would like to hire an up-and-coming first-time head coach to replace Quin Snyder, according to Stein, who identifies Celtics assistant Will Hardy and Suns assistant Kevin Young as candidates who have impressed Utah so far.
  • After writing on Wednesday that the Sixers would be the favorites to sign P.J. Tucker if the forward leaves the Heat, Stein says today that Philadelphia’s impending pursuit of Tucker has the “strong backing” of star center Joel Embiid.
  • In addition to OG Anunoby, the Trail Blazers maintain interest in Thunder swingman Luguentz Dort, says Stein. Portland’s interest in Dort was previously reported. Portland’s No. 7 overall pick could be in play as the team seeks an upgrade on the wing.

Fischer’s Latest: Ayton, Nurkic, Anunoby, Dort, Turner, Sharpe

The Trail Blazers are no longer viewed as a suitor for restricted free agent Deandre Ayton, sources tell Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. According to Fischer, Portland plans to re-sign starting center Jusuf Nurkic, who is an unrestricted free agent, and hopes to acquire Raptors forward OG Anunoby in exchange for a package headlined by the No. 7 overall pick of the 2022 draft.

However, Anunoby might not be the only target for the Blazers. It’s been rumored that the Thunder are trying to move up in the lottery, and Fischer reports that “there has been increasing talk” about Portland sending the No. 7 pick to OKC in exchange for No. 12 and a “package that could include” Luguentz Dort.

The three most realistic landing spots for Ayton, aside from re-signing with the Suns, appear to be the Hawks, Pistons and Raptors, says Fischer, adding that all three clubs have interesting pieces to dangle in a possible sign-and-trade for the center.

Echoing a report from Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report, Fischer states that the Pacers could also be a possibility for Ayton in a sign-and-trade deal involving Myles Turner. The two players are both represented by agent Bill Duffy, Fischer notes (hat tip to RealGM).

According to Fischer, Shaedon Sharpe may be a candidate to fall in the lottery after a series of underwhelming workouts ahead of the draft. Fischer says Sharpe’s range might begin at No. 8, but he could also be a target of teams who try to acquire the No. 7 pick from Portland. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reported yesterday that the Thunder are high on Sharpe.

And-Ones: BIG3, Canada, Hezonja, Coaches

Ty Lawson, Corey Brewer, Jordan Crawford, Jonathon Simmons, Norris Cole, Festus Ezeli, and Jordan Hill are among the many former NBA players whose names are in the BIG3 draft pool for the 2022 season, per the league’s official website.

The BIG3 will hold its draft on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles as it gears up for the coming season. As we previously relayed, the first games of 2022 are scheduled for June 18 and this will be the first year in which the BIG3 holds an All-Star Game.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

Thunder Notes: Dort, Bazley, Giddey, Salary Cap, Draft

The Thunder are interested in reaching contract extension agreements with Luguentz Dort and Darius Bazley but only if the price is right, GM Sam Presti told The Oklahoman’s Joe Mussatto and other media members on Monday.

“They’re both great guys,” Presti said. “I want to hear what they’re thinking, and I need them to understand we have to also balance the interest of the team as well.”

Presti indicated extension talks with Dort haven’t begun, Mussatto tweets.

“We’ll definitely have a conversation on that,” Presti said. “I don’t know when those conversations will pick up. We’ll have some different options. I don’t want to get into all of them.”

Here are some other highlights from Presti’s annual end-of-season press conference, via Mussatto:

  • Dort (shoulder), Bazley (knee) and Josh Giddey (hip), among others, didn’t finish the season due to injuries but Presti expects everyone on the roster to be ready for training camp.
  • The Thunder will play in two summer leagues, Salt Lake City and Las Vegas. Giddey and Aleksej Pokusevski will play in Salt Lake City.
  • The Thunder have only $54MM on the books for the 2023/24 season and will continue efforts to keep their salary sheet clean leading up to a new CBA in the summer of 2023.
  • If they’re not playing meaningful games as next season progresses, the Thunder plan to once again go into development mode as the season winds down. “We’re not just trying to figure out how to win two more games next year,” Presti said. “We could do that, but that solution doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best long-term solution for the team.”
  • There’s a slim chance the Thunder could hold onto all four picks it currently possesses in the draft. “One thing I don’t think has been explored enough in the NBA is just drafting everybody and then figuring it out,” Presti said.

Potential 2022 RFAs Whose Qualifying Offers Will Be Impacted By Starter Criteria

The NBA’s rookie scale, which determines how much first-round picks earn during their first four NBA seasons, also dictates how much the qualifying offers will be worth for those players when they reach restricted free agency after year four. However, the value of those qualifying offers can fluctuate depending on whether or not a player has met the “starter criteria.”

Here’s how the starter criteria works in a typical year:

  • A player who is eligible for restricted free agency is considered to have met the starter criteria if he plays at least 2,000 minutes or starts 41 games in the season before he reaches free agency.
  • A player can also meet the criteria if he averages either of those marks in the two seasons prior to his restricted free agency. For instance, if a player started 50 games one year and 32 the next, he’d meet the starter criteria, since his average number of starts over the last two seasons is 41.

The thresholds for the starter criteria this year are a little different due to the truncated nature of the 2020/21 season. We outlined those tweaks at the start of the season.

A player’s ability or inability to meet the starter criteria can affect the value of the qualifying offer he receives as a restricted free agent, as follows:

  • A top-14 pick who does not meet the starter criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 15th overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A player picked between 10th and 30th who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the ninth overall pick would receive if he signed for 120% of the rookie scale.
  • A second-round pick or undrafted player who meets the criteria will receive a qualifying offer equal to the amount the 21st overall pick would receive if he signed for 100% of the rookie scale.
  • For all other RFAs, the standard criteria determine the amounts of their qualifying offers.

Extending a qualifying offer to a player eligible for restricted free agency officially makes that player an RFA, ensuring that his team has the right of first refusal if he signs an offer sheet with another club. It also gives the player the option of signing that one-year QO.

Generally, the value of a restricted free agent’s qualifying offer isn’t hugely important, since very few RFAs accept those offers outright. There are exceptions though.

Last offseason, for instance, Bruce Brown met the starter criteria heading into restricted free agency, increasing the value of his qualifying offer to $4,736,102. The Nets decided to issue that qualifying offer and he accepted it. Had he fallen short of the starter criteria, Brown only would have been eligible for a qualifying offer worth around $2MM and his free agency could have played out very differently.


Top-14 picks who failed to meet starter criteria:

With all that in mind, let’s check in on how this year’s RFAs-to-be will be impacted by the starter criteria. Listed below are the former top-14 picks on track for restricted free agency who did not meet the starter criteria. These players will be eligible for qualifying offers worth $7,228,448.

Seven of the 14 players selected with lottery picks in the 2018 draft signed rookie scale extensions in 2021, meaning they won’t have to worry about the value of their qualifying offers this offseason.

Of the other seven, the three players listed above failed to meet the criteria. Bagley is the biggest loser in the trio — his qualifying offer would’ve been worth approximately $14.76MM if he had met the starter criteria. Sexton’s would’ve been about $8.56MM, while Knox’s would’ve been $7.92MM.

Even with the amount of his qualifying offer lowered a little, Knox likely won’t receive a QO at all, making him an unrestricted free agent. Bagley and Sexton are much safer bets for QOs.

Top-14 picks Deandre Ayton (Suns) and Mohamed Bamba (Magic), each met the starter criteria, locking in their QO amounts at $16.42MM and $10.1MM, respectively. Miles Bridges (Hornets) also met the starter criteria, as detailed in the next section.

Jerome Robinson was the only top-14 pick from ’18 who was waived before completing his rookie contract — he’s no longer on an NBA roster and won’t be eligible for a qualifying offer this summer.


First-round picks between 10-30 who met starter criteria:

A player who fell into this category would see the amount of his qualifying offer increase to $7,921,300. Bridges, the No. 12 overall pick, was the only player to qualify.

As a result of meeting the starter criteria, Bridges’ qualifying offer will increase from about $7.46MM to $7.92MM, a modest bump. It shouldn’t change the outlook of his free agency, since he’ll almost certainly receive a lucrative long-term offer.

Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons looked like one of the best candidates to join Bridges in this group. He needed to make 41 starts this season for Portland, but only got to 30 before he was shut down for the season with a left knee injury. His qualifying offer will remain at $5.76MM, but that shouldn’t have a major impact on his free agency, since he’ll likely work out a multiyear deal with the Blazers.

Meanwhile, because Kings wing Donte DiVincenzo was a full-time starter for the Bucks in 2020/21, he only needed to make seven starts this season to meet the starter criteria. However, he ultimately started just once for Milwaukee and Sacramento, even when he was playing heavy minutes down the stretch for the Kings.

DiVincenzo’s qualifying offer will remain at $6.6MM, which actually could have a tangible effect on his free agency — if he doesn’t get a multiyear offer with a starting salary much higher than his qualifying offer, accepting the QO and reaching unrestricted free agency in 2023 may be DiVincenzo’s best option. Presumably, that’s why his camp reportedly wasn’t thrilled that he was still coming off the bench at the end of the season.


Second-round picks and UDFAs who met starter criteria:

The players listed below signed as second-round picks or undrafted free agents, but met the starter criteria and are now eligible for a qualifying offer worth $4,869,012.

Of course, it’s very possible neither Dort nor Tate will even become a free agent this summer, since their contracts both include team options for 2022/23.

The Thunder could decide to turn down Dort’s minimum-salary option for next season in order to make him a restricted free agent this year instead of an unrestricted free agent next year, but there’s no guarantee they’ll go that route. If they do, his QO would be worth $4.87MM instead of $2.22MM.

Meanwhile, there’s no incentive for the Rockets to decline Tate’s option, since he’ll still be eligible for restricted free agency in 2023, so the amount of his potential qualifying offer this summer will be rendered moot.

Among other second-round picks and undrafted free agents, Hornets wing Cody Martin (1,866 minutes), Clippers swingman Amir Coffey (30 starts), and Trail Blazers forward CJ Elleby (28 starts) are a few who were in the ballpark of the starter criteria, but none got there. Martin, Coffey, Elleby, and the rest of this year’s restricted free agents won’t have their projected qualifying offers impacted by the starter criteria.

Northwest Notes: Towns, McLaughlin, Dort, Gilgeous-Alexander

The Timberwolves overcame a foul-plagued outing by Karl-Anthony Towns to beat the Clippers in the play-in tournament. Towns says he’ll be just fine as the team prepares for its first-round series with the Grizzlies, Chris Hine of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. “I’m not tripping at all. In a good space,” Towns said. “Just good to get past the last two days and I’m ready to go.”

Towns says he’ll play smarter against Memphis. “I got a more clear role for what they want me to do in the playoffs,” he said. “So I’m very confident, feel very good.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Timberwolves reserve guard Jordan McLaughlin never left the bench in the play-in game but he’ll have a role against the Grizzlies, coach Chris Finch told Hine in a separate story. McLaughlin will take any minutes he can get. “I’m a team player, so when my number is called, I’m going to be ready to go and do whatever I can to help my team win,” McLaughlin said. “If it’s not called, I’m still going to help my team win, cheering on the bench, talking to guys, telling them what I see and stuff like that. It’s never about me.”
  • Thunder guard Luguentz Dort anticipates he’ll be fully recovered from shoulder surgery by training camp, according to Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman. Dort believes he’ll be back to 100% during the next two to three months. Dort is eligible for a contract extension and could become an unrestricted free agent next summer. “I’m going to let my agent handle it,” Dort said of a possible extension.
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is pumped about the franchise’s future, Mussatto writes in a separate piece. He’ll enter the first year of his five-year max extension next season. “We have that trust in each other,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, referring to the front office and coaching staff. “I can’t go into details, but we’re excited for the future.” 

Thunder’s Dort, Muscala, Jerome Done For Season Following Surgeries

Thunder players Luguentz Dort, Mike Muscala and Ty Jerome will all be out for the rest of the 2021/22 season following surgeries to address various ailments, per a team press release.

Dort had an operation to treat a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Muscala had a scope and lateral ligament repair on his right ankle. Jerome, who has been dealing with a hip injury, went under the knife for what the Thunder term to be a sports hernia, and could return in just eight weeks. Oklahoma City anticipates that Dort and Muscala will be ready to play in time for the beginning of the 2022/23 NBA season.

Muscala had reportedly been considering an offseason surgery to address the ankle injury — it appears he opted to accelerate that timeline. The news of Dort and Jerome requiring surgeries comes as more of a surprise.

At 20-44, the rebuilding Thunder are currently the No. 14 seed in the Western Conference. The extended absences of Dort, Muscala and Jerome – all rotation players – for the rest of the year should help Oklahoma City’s tanking efforts.

According to Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman (via Twitter), Thunder head coach Mark Daigneault said that the country’s top sports doctors were occupied with NFL Combine obligations over the last week, which led to all these surgeries all transpiring on the same day.

Dort, still just 22, has emerged as one of the Thunder’s best players. In 51 games this year, the defensive-oriented swingman averaged 17.2 PPG, 4.2 RPG, 1.7 APG and 0.9 SPG. “It’s gotta be pretty significant for a specialist to recommend surgery,” Daigneault said of the labrum tear, per Mussatto (Twitter link).

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the Thunder hold a $1.9MM team option for Dort for 2022/23. Should Oklahoma City pick up the option, the team could then offer him a four-year, $58MM contract extension before he reaches unrestricted free agency in 2023. The club could also turn down that team option to make him a restricted free agent this offseason.

The other two sidelined Thunder players have not been as essential for Oklahoma City this season. Jerome, a 24-year-old shooting guard, logged 7.1 PPG, 2.3 APG and 1.6 in 48 games (16.7 MPG) during his third NBA season. Muscala averaged 8.0 PPG and 3.0 RPG in 13.8 MPG across 43 contests for the Thunder, who have a $3.5MM team option on the 30-year-old big man for the 2022/23 season.