In 48 hours the narrative around the Thunder’s shooting guard position went from being all-in on Luguentz Dort and turned off of Terrance Ferguson, to the possibility of a position battle between the two. This possibility came to the forefront of my mind during the second quarter of OKC’s game against Chicago where Ferguson showed flashes of confidence with three 3s in the quarter.
OKC had its struggles in the second half after leading by as many as 24 points against the Bulls but weathered the storm that was 76 combined points from Zach LaVine and Coby White. OKC broke a Thunder record with their ninth-straight road win, defeating the Bulls 124-122.
The storyline from this game is obvious. The Thunder, who lead the league in double-digit comebacks almost got Thundered by a significantly less-talented squad.
The storyline that stuck out to me was Ferguson’s rebuttal to everyone who doubted him and their assumption that he’d lose his starting spot to Dort without a fight.
Yes, Dort may indeed be the better option for the Thunder to start. He’s younger and he’s been more effective offensively than Ferguson has been in his entire career. He’s a fearless defender as well and has seen success on the defensive end of the floor.
On Tuesday against the Bulls, Dort didn’t do much in the 24:20 that he played. He had two unsuccessful shot attempts, no free throw attempts and didn’t score one point while still playing tough defense but not making an impact on the stat sheet.
On Tuesday night, Ferguson showed confidence on the offensive end for the first time since mid-January. More specifically, Ferguson hasn’t hit three 3s since Jan. 4 where he hit three against the Cleveland Cavaliers. Against the Bulls, Ferg shot 3-of-5 from the field, all from three and scored 11 points, which is also the most since Jan. 4.
With Ferguson, the excitement behind today’s performance wasn’t all about how many points he scored and the fact that all his points came in one quarter. The excitement comes from seeing Ferg look confident on offense again. If we’re looking solely off his defense, he’s better than Dort because of his skill. Dort hustles on defense but his mechanics don’t compare to Ferg’s. The biggest discrepancy between the two is Ferguson’s lack of aggressiveness with the ball in his hand.
Mid-season competitions like these can be detrimental to a young team like OKC. In this situation, that’s not the case. There isn’t much tension between the two in the locker room, and they’ve been seen communicating quite well at practice. It truly appears as if both players uplift each other.
If my assumption is true, does this make the already dangerous Thunder even more dangerous come playoff time? They’re already a defensive-minded squad and they’re already a team that can beat you in numerous ways. If their weakness (not having a substantial shooting guard) can become another one of their strengths then that gives OKC another leg up on their competition.
In the whole scheme of things, will it matter who starts between Dort and Ferguson? OKC will have two scrappy defenders at the shooting guard position in the rotation and another active, athletic and scrappy defender in Hamidou Diallo on the outside of the rotation looking in, just in case he’s needed.
Tuesday night’s game was just a one-game sample size for Ferguson but could it rejuvenate his drive? If so, the timing is perfect.