'It can be a thankless job': The Thunder scout who lobbied for Lu Dort is watching his work pay off
When Thunder general manager Sam Presti learned that rookie Luguentz Dort was going to play rotation minutes, he thought of Brandon Miller.
“The job of those guys, the scouts, it can be a thankless job,” Presti told The Oklahoman. “It can be a job where you can put in hundreds of hours for decisions that you never have a chance to make.”
So, Presti sent Miller a text, telling him coach Billy Donovan’s plan for the undrafted rookie that Miller had lobbied for.
Miller, one of the Thunder’s senior amateur evaluation scouts, was a consistent proponent of Dort’s for the year leading up to the 2019 NBA Draft. The Thunder ended up signing Dort to a two-way contract as an undrafted free agent. Since then, he’s played 22 games with the Thunder and started the past 14. In OKC's 131-103 win against San Antonio Sunday, Dort shot 6-of-6 from the field, in addition to playing the stifling defense that earned him a rotation spot in the first place.
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“It remains to be seen what kind of a career Lu is going to have in the NBA,” Presti said, “but one thing we do know is he’s had an impact on this season, and that doesn’t happen without Brandon’s persistence.”
According to Presti, he and the rest of his front office team liked what they saw in Dort, but it was Miller who made sure they didn’t forget about the freshman at Arizona State.
Finally, as the second round of the draft wound down and conversation turned to undrafted free agents, Brandon made his case for Dort.
“For me to see the group operate with that type of teamwork,” Presti said, “and support of one another and respect for one another’s point of view – never caring whose guy it was, or who was on it first or not – that to me was gratifying to see those guys work that way. And it says a lot about them. And it says a lot about (vice president of identification and intelligence) Will Dawkins, who manages that group day to day.”
A little over five months later, Donovan played Dort for 20 minutes at Portland. And Dort began to prove that Miller had been onto something.