Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment evaluates Arizona State guard Luguentz Dort.
Luguentz Dort was one of Arizona State’s key weapons this past season, leading the Sun Devils in scoring in his lone season at the collegiate level. Measuring just below 6’3 at the combine (without shoes), Dort is an athletic guard who uses his physicality to bully his way towards the rim. His 6’8.5 wingspan makes him an interesting two-way prospect, and while he wasn’t the quickest player laterally at the combine by any stretch, his 38-inch max vertical leaves little to question in regards to his vertical athleticism.
Dort comes in No. 28 on Sam Vecenie’s latest big board, and No. 27 on ESPN, so the possibility that he’s there when the Hawks’ No. 35 overall selection rolls around exists, while general manager Travis Schlenk could also choose to use some combination of their three second round picks (No. 35, 41 and 44) to trade up and select him if they see fit. He could potentially be brought in to the fold in Atlanta as a secondary ball handler/sixth man weapon for head coach Lloyd Pierce with the backcourt of the future seemingly already in place. There may be some competition for the starting off-guard spot in training camp, but it seems fairly safe to assume that Kevin Huerter will retain the role to start the 2019-20 season, while Trae Young will obviously be the point, assuming health.
This may be the prism through which Atlanta (or any evaluator for that matter) chooses to view Dort, as his sub-6’3 frame is a little on the small side for a starting two anyway. With the lack of creativity displayed on the second unit last season, inserting Dort into that role could give the bench the juice it sorely needed at times in 2018-19.
Dort’s biggest weakness at this stage is shooting, specifically in catch-and-shoot situations. The freshman guard averaged 0.84 points per possession on catch-and-shoot, near the bottom of the expected class, while he averaged 1.00 point per possession on pull-up jumpers. These peripherals indicate Dort is cut out of a sixth man role as well, as it seems he is currently more effective playing at his own rhythm than within a system. These metrics combined with his lack of height profile him as a bench scorer, at least initially. He has the athletic ability and wingspan to be a positive on the defensive end, especially in a reserve role. There is just going to be a big question mark in regards to his ability to defend bigger wings until we see how big he can play at the highest level.
From a defensive perspective, a comparison from last year’s draft for Dort could be Josh Okogie, who was selected No. 20 overall by the Minnesota Timberwolves out of Georgia Tech. Okogie is a little taller (6’4.5) and has a ridiculous combination of 7’ wingspan and 42-inch max vertical, but both players used their bulky physique to bully their way to buckets in the collegiate ranks and shot less than ideal percentages from range. Dort is also (slightly) younger coming into the draft, as Okogie was a sophomore when he elected to leave the Yellow Jackets for the association while Dort spent only one season at Arizona State. Okogie’s NBA role changed dramatically from his role at Georgia Tech, as the Yellow Jackets asked him to carry large portions of their offense but the Timberwolves made him more of a bit player offensively. Dort carried a similar role for the Sun Devils in his freshman year, but has more offensive upside overall than Okogie did this time last year.
An absolute peak turnout for Dort’s career may mirror what Donovan Mitchell has done in Utah so far, while it’s obviously a stretch to make that claim for any player outside of the lottery. While it may sound crazy knowing what we know about Mitchell now, the two players performed at similar levels with very similar playing styles in college, with Mitchell being a year older in the most comparable of his two seasons to Dort’s freshman campaign.
It must be said that Mitchell was playing in the ACC, largely regarded as the best conference in the nation, especially for NBA talent, while Dort played in the Pac-12, which was by far the weakest power 5 conference in 2018-19. Nonetheless, the numbers are very, very similar, as are their playing styles. Mitchell also measured around 6’3 at the combine without shoes, and possesses a slightly longer wingspan of 6’10.
If Dort is going to be a starter at his current size (it’s always possible he’s not done growing), he will need to be at least close to as effective as Mitchell has been so far in his career, while it’s clearly not the most likely outcome for any player ranked as a fringe first-rounder. If Dort can improve his shooting early in his career, he could very realistically become a legitimate bench threat for an NBA team, with the athletic ability and upside to become a positive net player on both ends of the court in the right situation.
With the Hawks largely rumored to be looking towards bigger, more traditional wings near the top of the draft, Dort may be a guy they seek later in the first round via trade, or certainly at No. 35 if he slips and Atlanta still has that pick on draft day.