Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard has been around the block over the course of his 11-year NBA career, frequently targeted by the best defensive guards the league has to offer.
Still, Lillard’s recent choice for the title of the league’s best defender raised eyebrows after it appeared in a Wednesday feature by Jason Quick of The Athletic.
“Lu Dort,” Lillard said. “I think he has the perfect balance of strength, quickness, speed and desire to do it. And he’s young. So I just think he is the best at it.”
Dort, the Thunder‘s 23-year-old swingman, rose to fame in 2020 during Oklahoma City’s fiercely contested first-round series against the Rockets. The then-rookie hampered then-Houston guard James Harden at times, and although the Rockets took the series in seven games, Dort’s defensive savvy and 30-point Game 7 won him praise.
A season after his breakthrough, Dort received down-ballot votes for the All-Defensive team. This year, Dort has recorded career highs in steals and defensive win shares.
As a result, the 37-39 Thunder sit in 10th place in the Western Conference with six games to go—squarely in position for a potential play-in berth.