"Stat Just Happened" is our new series where we'll pair an important stat with how it actually unfolded on the floor. Our aim? To answer key questions, uncover hidden truths and peel back the curtain on why some numbers matter more than others.
Today, Oklahoma City Thunder guard and Montreal native Luguentz Dort takes the spotlight.
According to NBA.com, that's how many drives per game Luguentz Dort is averaging this season.
Why is that notable? It's way up from last season. Like, way up.
As a rookie, Dort averaged 3.3 drives per game, ranking him fifth on the Thunder behind Shai Gilgeous-Alexander (16.4), Chris Paul (12.8), Dennis Schroder (11.7) and Danilo Gallinari (3.8). This season, with Paul, Schroder and Gallinari no longer on the team, he's up to 8.1 drives per game, ranking him second to only Gilgeous-Alexander (24.9) for most on Oklahoma City.
Dort has been more efficient as well, shooting 44.7 percent from the field on his drives, up from 40.0 percent last season.
Essentially, Dort has gone from being someone who rarely drives and struggles to score when he does to someone who can punish teams off the dribble.
|Drives Per Game||FGM-FGA||FG%|
It's not just the numbers that stand out either. Even the way Dort is driving this season is different.
Playing next to three creators in Paul, Schroder and Gilgeous-Alexander, Dort was primarily a spot-up shooter last season. When he did score inside the 3-point line, it was usually off of a straight-line drive when his defender closed out on him or off of a cut when his defender helped off of him.
Put it this way: Dort attempted a total of 218 shots last season, 149 of which came within one dribble. Through 33 games this season, he's attempted a total of 358 shots, 208 of which have come within one dribble.
So the majority of his field goal attempts still come on plays like this:
But Dort is getting more opportunities to make plays with the ball in his hands, like this:
The speedy crossover followed by the left-handed finish around Anthony Edwards underneath the basket ... that's nice! Dort is only listed at 6-foot-3, but he's built like a brick wall and is quick on his feet. The combination makes him a tough cover when he gets downhill.
Here's another one, this time with Dort creating out of the pick-and-roll, something he basically never did last season:
Becoming a more aggressive and efficient driver is an important development for Dort, both in the short-term and long-term. He's quickly established himself as one of the best perimeter defenders in the league, so his growth on offence will determine his ceiling in the years to come. It starts with his jump shot, where he's shown some encouraging signs of improvement since last season, upping his 3-point percentage from 29.7 percent to 32.8 percent on double the volume. (Dort is even shooting the occasional 3 off the dribble, something else he barely did last season.)
The more defenders have to respect him from the 3-point line, the more opportunities Dort will get to put the ball on the floor. And the more he proves himself to be a capable driver, the harder time defenders are going to have guarding him in rotation, making the Thunder more unpredictable by extension.
How adept Dort will become at putting the ball on the floor remains to be seen. Will he simply be someone who attacks closeouts and runs the occasional play, or will he be someone the Thunder can actually run some of their offence through? The Thunder don't necessarily need him to become a big-time creator - not only do they have Gilgeous-Alexander, they have a treasure trove of first-round draft picks that will put them in the mix for the best prospects college basketball and the G League have to offer in the coming years - but anything he can give them on top of elite perimeter defence and decent 3-point shooting will only make him a more valuable piece of the puzzle.
Dort still has a long way to go in that regard but the wheels are in motion.
The proof is in that one key number...
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