Role-Based Prospects: The Stories of Luguentz & Keldon
6’4.25”, 222-pounds, 6’8.5” wingspan, 38” max vertical, turned 20 in April, ranked 19th by Fenrich
It’s hard to see Luguentz Dort on a basketball court and not take instant notice. At 6-4, he comfortably carries a thoroughly toned, muscular physique. He looks more pro football than basketball and, sort of like Marcus Smart before him, his best skill is his defense though I’m not convinced he knows that.
His dimensions aren’t far from Smart’s either. Both players are around 6-4 and 225-pounds, but as I mentioned with Talen Horton-Tucker, it’s often the intangibles that separate NBA players and Smart’s a world class intangibles guy while Dort remains a project under development. For all their defense-as-a-strength comparisons, Smart was absolutely devastating as a college (and now pro) defender. He averaged 3 steals/game as a freshman, then 2.9 as a sophomore and even sniffed a block/game for a season. Dort, by contrast, was at 1.2 steals and his steal percentage was half of Smart’s. These stats aren’t the definitive statement that Smart’s a better defender and prospect, but rather confirm what my eyes have told me.
To be fair, no one is suggesting Dort is in Smart’s league, rather there are physical similarities that can be instructive about what a player’s ceiling could be in specific circumstances. Smart spent his college years as a point guard for Oklahoma State and playmaking is where their abilities deviate even further. In his lone season at Arizona State, Dort turned the ball over 99 times to 79 assists and in my notes stretching across multiple games, there’s minimal references to passing or vision as a strength and repeated references to him being out of control when attacking off the dribble. Reflecting on his tape, he’s a player whose athleticism has always allowed him to beat opponents with his explosiveness, quickness and strength. That ability carried over to the high D1 level, but there were two problems: 1) the size and strength of college help defenders far outweighs Dort’s previous comp level and 2) he doesn’t appear to have a clue what he’s going to do once he gets to the second or third level.
The offensive concerns don’t stop with his playmaking and slashing inefficiencies. Dort’s decision making (against UCLA, the announcers said he “never met a shot he didn’t like”) and shot (40-31-70 shooting splits) leave a lot of room for improvement. It’s not that his mechanics are broken, but that the outcome is so damn inconsistent. He’s a streaky shooter who doesn’t get hot enough and pulls up (both inside and outside the three) at inopportune times.
His offense isn’t all bad though and there’s a reason I have him 19th overall. In his 31 minutes/game, Dort got to the line for over six attempts/game.
His strength, solid length, and +38” vertical combine with a fearlessness in attack to create the makings of a potentially quality slasher.
He also rebounds well for his size and while his decision making in transition gives me anxiety, he’s capable of going end-to-end on grab and go’s and with a full head of steam, he’s a fucking load.
I get why some draft boards/scouts are a lot lower on him, but between his reputation for having a strong work ethic and a frame that is functionally freakish, there’s a lot to imagine with Dort. The hope I have is that he realizes defense is his calling card and while I don’t expect him to ever be uber efficient as a playmaker, reducing his bad shots and developing a better feel for how, when, and where to attack will elevate his usefulness to an NBA team.
6’6”, 216-pounds, 6’9.25” wingspan, unknown max vertical, turns 20 in October, ranked 27th by Fenrich
I think it’s worthwhile to acknowledge any biases one may have towards a subject or topic they’re assessing and I admit Keldon Johnson has gotten on my nerves at times for screaming, flexing, emoting, etc. I don’t mean this as any “get off my lawn” statement of values, because to be honest, kids should be kids and when I first saw Johnson, he was just an 18-year-old kid for Oak Hill.
Apropos of nothing I’ve written above, my first note on Johnson is from January of 2018 and it’s comically simple and ridiculous: “Saw him bank a free throw. Fluid athlete.”
On with the scouting: Johnson is 6-6 wing whose lone season at Kentucky wasn’t what I expected. Seeing him at Oak Hill, I saw a strong, dominant, demonstrative athlete whose jumper hadn’t yet caught up to his athleticism. At Kentucky, I saw an average-to-slightly-above-average athlete at his best playing within himself and – unexpectedly – knocking down all sorts of jumpers.
He finished the season with a 46-38-70 shooting line, but excelled at the catch-and-shoot: per stats.nba.com, 36% of his possessions were spot ups and his 1.08 points-per-possession on those looks landed in the 81st percentile.
Again, to my surprise, he showed a ton of touch on everything from mid-range pull-ups to floaters to jump hooks.
As a playmaker, Johnson didn’t stand out much. He’s capable as a passer and has a decent read of the floor, but doesn’t show much in the way of creativity or imagination when attacking off the dribble. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as I’m kind of of the belief that playing within yourself and your role is critical in pro basketball where most players have spent a lifetime being the best player on the court only to be relegated to reserve status. Not being outstanding as a playmaker is no reflection on Johnson’s passing. Despite a 1:1 assist-to-turnover ratio, he often makes the right pass and delivers it crisply and on-target.
Defensively, Johnson was just OK for me. He showed some decent on-ball defense, but I saw him get caught up on screens and overplay denials at times with both scenarios putting him at regular disadvantages. Statistically, it’s hard to be excited his profile. He averaged under a steal (0.8) and block (0.2) over 37 games. Given his 6-9 wingspan and decent athleticism, I’d expect him to accidentally get more than six blocks in 37 games.
Finally, for all of Johnson’s expressiveness and competitiveness, I’ve seen it take him out of games at times. Going back to the McDonald’s scrimmage in 2018, he quickly got caught up in a one-on-one battle with RJ Barrett that took him out of any flow. Against Tennessee in March, he got into a back-and-forth with Admiral Schofield that seemed to knock his focus off track. Some guys need the emotion to get their edge, but it’s a fine line and hard to determine how much of Johnson’s bombast is maturity or just hard wiring.
I have him ranked 27th overall and it’s mostly because I don’t see a high ceiling for him. Despite the lower ranking, I’d love to see him on a winning, established team (though this feels like a copout as I’d love to see most 19-year-olds in stable environments surrounded by strong role models) as I believe, despite the occasional lapses in maturity, that he has potential as a high-level role player or contributor on a competitive team.