Luguentz Dort continues to earn the respect of his peers.
Following the Oklahoma City Thunder's one-point loss to the Utah Jazz in their second game of the 2020-21 season, Donovan Mitchell called the Montreal native a "hell of a defender."
Dort played a key role in the Thunder limiting the one-time All-Star to 20 points on 8-for-23 shooting from the field and 2-for-10 from 3-point range.
"First off, gotta give him credit, man," Mitchell said when asked of Dort's defence after the game. "He's a hell of a defender. He's worked on his 3-point shot, but I give him his credit."
Dort made a name for himself as a defensive stopper last season. Based on data collected by Krishna Narsu of The BBall Index, nobody spent a higher percentage of their minutes guarding No. 1 options than Dort did in 2019-20.
There's a big difference between being able to guard No. 1 options and doing it well, but Dort proved himself in the playoffs by taking on the assignment of guarding three-time scoring champion James Harden in the Thunder's first-round series with the Houston Rockets. Dort was a thorn in Harden's side, limiting him to 31.5 percent shooting from the field and 26.3 percent from 3-point range on the possessions they were matched up, per NBA.com's tracking data.
It wasn't enough for the Thunder to advance to the second round - Harden got the last laugh with a clutch block on Dort in Game 7 that sealed the deal for the Rockets - but Harden praised Dort afterwards for having the right mindset and "playing balls to the wall."
MORE: Dort is a superstar's nightmare
The same things that gave Harden trouble against Dort in the playoffs gave Mitchell some trouble in Tuesday's game. Dort is unique in that he's built like a brick wall but still has the foot speed to navigate his way around screens and contain ball handlers - not to mention a motor that never seems to stop - the combination of which gives him the tools to guard some of the league's best perimeter players.
Many of Mitchell's misses in Monday's game came on possessions like this, in which Dort shut down a driving lane by getting his body in front of Mitchell and forcing him into a contested pull-up:
The closeout, the recovery, the contest ... picture perfect.
Here's another example of Dort's staunch defence against Mitchell:
Mitchell is capable of making those shots - he was one of the league's best midrange shooters last season - but that's about as well as anyone can defend him on a given possession.
Dort also forced Mitchell to commit a couple of turnovers, one of which saw him rip the ball out of his hands when he tried to attack Thunder rookie Aleksej Pokuševski in isolation.
Dort turned the steal into a layup in transition for two of his game-high 26 points. He looked much-improved offensively against the Jazz, which would be a huge development for the rebuilding Thunder, but that's a story for a different day.
Unfortunately for Dort, his efforts weren't quite enough against the Jazz. Much like Harden, it was Mitchell who got the last laugh as he came alive down the stretch and made a runner over Dort in the closing seconds to win the game. With the win, the Jazz improve to 2-1 on the season while the Thunder fall to 1-1.
Even so, the fact that the Thunder were even in the game to begin with was a testament to Dort's star-stopping power, as he was able to contain one of the league's best scorers.
It's a long season, but Dort's All-Defense campaign is already well underway.
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