ASU men's basketball freshman guard Luguentz Dort highlighted the Sun Devils' hot start to the season. During ASU’s first eight games, Dort averaged 22 points on 44 percent shooting from the field and led the team to a 7-1 start.
However, in the eight games since, Dort’s offensive production has regressed significantly. His points per game average has dropped to 12.3 and his field goal percentage has dropped to 34 percent. ASU has gone 4-4 in those eight games.
After Dort’s hot start, opposing teams geared their game plans to force him into tougher shots and decisions.
Teams now know Dort’s preferred way to score involves driving and using his strength to finish at the rim. Now, opposing teams often look to clog Dort’s driving lanes, forcing him to read defenses on the fly or shoot over multiple defenders.
This is where his problems begin. Dort often displayed tunnel vision during this eight-game stretch — driving into the lane looking only to score.
In this play, Dort drives into the paint, with redshirt sophomore forward Romello White already occupying that area, and is met by a crowd of Georgia defenders.
By the time he gathers, there are three defenders on Dort. The right play is to pass to sophomore guard Remy Martin in the corner, but instead he takes a runner that gets blocked.
On this play, sophomore forward Kimani Lawrence is set up open in the corner, and Dort drives against three defenders once again, and is met at the rim.
If Dort passes it off before he gathers, it is an open three for either Lawrence or Martin if Lawrence's defender rotates.
Here, Dort's gravity as a driver draws freshman forward Taeshon Cherry’s man in to help. The correct play is to pass to Cherry, who can either shoot off the catch or pass it to redshirt junior guard Rob Edwards in the corner if his man rotates.
Instead, Dort takes a tough shot over a bigger defender.
These defensive adjustments by opposing teams have forced Dort to adjust his own game, and he is now constantly put in a position to make plays for others.
While Dort isn’t perfect, as he sometimes still displays tunnel vision, he is an improving reader of defenses. This is a facet of his game he and coach Bobby Hurley should utilize more.
In one of Hurley’s more clever sets, Dort makes an "Iverson cut," running across the court with two off-ball screens. He then receives a pass and gets an on-ball screen from redshirt senior forward Zylan Cheatham. This screen frees up Cheatham on a roll to the basket, which Dort reads perfectly.
Here, he receives a ball screen from senior forward De’Quon Lake who then rolls. His roll draws in Cherry’s man in order to defend a pass to Lake. Dort stays patient off the screen and passes it to Cherry, who makes the open three-pointer.
This is possibly Dort’s best read and pass of the season. He receives a ball screen from White, and once again stays patient. He uses his eyes to look off the defender in the weak-side corner, freezing him in place by the threat of a skip pass to his man, leaving White wide open on the roll, which Dort sets up.
If Hurley continues to put Dort in positions to make these plays, and if Dort can continue to read defenses like this, Dort’s and ASU’s offense can regain form.
Dort’s ability to make correct reads will open up his driving game once again. Here, Dort drives into the lane untouched, with defenders remaining occupied for a potential kick out.
And while he failed to finish, the same point can be made here. He drives into the lane and all defenders but one remain occupied with their man. These are the type of looks Dort needs to search for.
With Pac-12 play now underway, Dort’s utilization on offense will be key in winning the conference and the conference tournament.
Jeffrey Horst is the digital editor-in-chief of The State Press. He previously served as the publication's sports editor and worked at Cronkite News and ArizonaSports.com.