OKC Thunder: Lu Dort moving up Arizona State basketball list
The James Harden-Lu Dort duel has become the spotlight matchup of the Thunder-Rockets playoff series. At least when Houston has the ball.
The ability of Dort, the undrafted rookie, to stay in front of Harden, the perennial all-star ranked by some as the best one-on-one player in NBA history, gives the Thunder a chance in the series, which the Rockets lead two games to one going into Game 4 Monday. I wrote about Dort for the Monday Oklahoman, a column which you can read here.
Spicing the duel is this: both Harden and Dort played at Arizona State.
The Sun Devils don’t spring to mind when you think of college basketball schools. Arizona State has made the NCAA Tournament 16 times and has a 14-17 record.
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ASU reached the Sweet 16 in 1995, 1975 and 1973. The Sun Devils made regional finals in 1961 and 1963.
Harden clearly is the greatest Sun Devil to play in the NBA. But Arizona State has had some other notable players:
Byron Scott. The shooting guard on the Showtime Lakers became a long-time NBA coach, including Oklahoma City’s first NBA coach, with the Hornets. Scott played 14 NBA seasons and averaged 14.1 points a game.
Joe Caldwell. Jumpin’ Joe Caldwell was an excellent small forward from 1964-75. He’s the grandfather of Sacramento’s Marvin Bagley; Bagley was the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft (a pick in front of Luka Doncic). Bagley has no chance to be as good as Doncic. We’ll see if Bagley turns out to be as good as his grandpa. Caldwell averaged 14.6 points a game, including 21.1 for the 1969-70 Atlanta Hawks.
Freddie Lewis. Spent his rookie year with the Cincinnati Royals (1966-67), then jumped to the Indiana Pacers and became an ABA star. He averaged 16.6 points a game as a wing shooter over the next seven seasons with the Pacers, including 20.6 and 20.2 his first two years.
Fat Lever. One of the NBA’s all-time underrated players. Russell Westbrook Lite long before Westbrook was born. Lever played from 1982-94 with Portland, Denver and Dallas. He averaged 13.9 points, 6.0 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game. Lever ranks ninth all-time in NBA triple doubles, with 43. Ahead of him are Oscar Robertson, Westbrook, Magic Johnson, Jason Kidd, LeBron James, Wilt Chamberlain, Larry Bird and Harden.
Lionel Hollins. Point guard from 1975-85, notably as the quarterback of the Blazers’ 1977 NBA championship team. Hollins averaged 11.6 points and 4.5 assists per game. He became a coach well-known to OKC, leading the Grizzlies in playoff series against the Thunder in both 2011 and 2013.
Alton Lister. Seven-foot center played 16 NBA seasons, 1982-98, making 582 career starts with averages of 6.6 points and 6.3 rebounds.
Eddie House. Eleven-year journeyman (2000-11) made just 31 career starts but was an effective bench scorer. He averaged just 7.5 points a game but shot 39 percent from 3-point range. House came along a decade too early.
So that’s the list Dort is trying to crack. He’s moving up fast.