UNSELECTED: NBA Outlook for Sun Devils Luguentz Dort & Zylan Cheatham following 2019 Draft
By Peter Bouloukos,
June 23, 2019 4:51 PM

Zylan Cheatham

The universe doesn’t conspire against anyone, but it doesn’t go out of its way to line up the pins either! Luguentz Dort and Zylan Cheatham were both in the discussion to be one of the sixty players to be drafted into the National Basketball Association.  

But on June 20th, 2019 when the 60th player, 6’7” shooting guard, Vanja Marinkovich (Serbia), was selected by the Sacramento Kings, it became painfully obvious why two outstanding Arizona State Basketball players were not selected.  Both are undersized for their positions and are not great long or mid-range shooters. But Luguentz Dort and Zylan Cheatham are now on two completely different trajectories with a variety of things yet to accomplish.  

At DieHard Devil we have consistently emphasized being drafted in the NBA doesn’t guarantee success or even a roster spot.  In our analysis of 85 players, 30 or more of them could all land in the second-round between the 45th and 60th selection.The last Sun Devil to be drafted was Carrick Felix in 2013, and he played 7 NBA games total.  

In the aftermath of the Draft, we have Luguentz Dort signing a two-way deal with the Oklahoma City Thunder.  Zylan Cheatham is headed to the New Orleans Pelicans under the same fundamental parameters.  A two-way NBA contract stipulates an athlete’s salary is dependent upon the league in which the player is assigned to play.  In the NBA this was added in 2017-2018 to bolster the G-League and keep talent in the United States under an NBA umbrella. The two-way option will also help the NBA to continue to expand globally. The G-League is no-joke.




Dort and Cheatham now control their ultimate level of success in professional basketball. Both have a variety of natural assets and motivations other ASU players have simply not had.  

Leading up to the Draft we saw “experts” all over the map on social media!  People were getting excited because Luguentz Dort was predicted to be a first-rounder in some circles including the worldwide-leader (as ASU Football Head Coach Herm Edwards calls it), otherwise known as ESPN.  Jay Bilas looked foolish placing Lu on his “best 10 available” starting at Pick 18.  Last night he looked crushed as his players slipped ten or twenty spots and where Dort was concerned, completely out of the Draft. The NBA drafted fundamental talent Thursday night, not potential.  

I had Dort as the 73rd best player and Cheatham on the bubble at 62.  That placed them both in the middle to the late second round at best. Many ASU fans agreed, but there were those who blasted me for my Dort analysis due to ESPN’s projection. What I love about DieHard Media itself is we are big-time fans, but we enjoy honest, critical analysis.  Being diehard includes asking the tough questions.


Luguentz Dort was ranked as high as the 28th pick in the upcoming 2019 NBA Draft


With that being said, a person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have with themselves, as well as with coaches, mentors and experts around them.  Accepting ongoing input and critical analysis builds strength, capability, and confidence. Top CEO’s and elite athletes hire coaches, mentors, and trainers to break them down mentally and physically to get there.

Right now, both Luguentz and Zylan must continue to further break down their game while seeking every opportunity for knowledge and insight.  It’s time to dig deep for these former Sun Devil athletes, almost. In gym-speak, this means it is time to embrace the “suck.” It’s time to get completely comfortable being uncomfortable. Make no doubt about it, both athletes have elite physical gifts on the court and the intelligence necessary to do amazing things in life.  Not getting drafted is only a setback.

Scouting Luguentz Dort’s future


Dort has an excellent understanding of arc, but this geometry fails him from distance.  At 6’2 ¾ “ with his shoes off, he is an undersized wing in the NBA. With turnovers and decision making being problematic in High School and one year of College, he is not an NBA point-guard… yet.  He has relied on physical gifts to score, and at times this alone is tough to stop. But it is also a tough gift to manage where NBA speed, agility, mentality, and fundamentals are concerned.

Luguentz Dort has to learn to let the game come to him, meaning taking what is open and exploiting an opposing weakness in the moment.  He is a straight-line driver prone to traveling and offensive charges when he gets excited. Too often he dribbles without a clear plan of attack and loses focus of the game around him. This resulted in many of his 99 turnovers at ASU.  It was also the reason why Lu missed a bundle of layups and hardly ever pulled up from a drive at 12 or 15-feet to take what was given to him.

To play in the NBA Luguentz Dort is not going to be a wing-player at his height. This means he needs to develop a lethal mid-range shot as well as a serviceable 3-point touch on the run.  He needs to be able to collect himself off the dribble at game speed and knock down 3’s as a true point guard in today’s NBA.  He was not a point at ASU and often was the third option to bring the ball up.

Luguentz, at his height, needs to play a ton of minutes as a true point guard, and I am not certain if the G-League will afford him that opportunity where he stands right now.  But he is similar in physical attributes to Russel Westbrook, so if Lu sticks and does the work, he could be called up to OKC later in the season. I think Lu could give Westbrook, one of his favorite players, a run for his money in a game of HORSE from 24 feet and out.  


Scouting Zylan Cheatham’s future


At 6’8” Zylan is at the average NBA height, and this places him as more of a true wing-man, shooting guard, or small forward.  Zylan shot 44 percent from three-point range at ASU (11-25), but he has yet to establish a reliable mid-range jump shot, much less one from beyond the arc at NBA game-speed while considering the opposing talent-level defending him.  

Listen, at 23 years old, Zylan Cheatham is a young talent and a man you want in your locker-room, pushing you at practice and entering a game to wreak havoc on teams as an athletic small or power forward.  He is extremely agile and a versatile role player.

Zylan has similar issues as Dort, not a true offensive weapon from 23-feet out as well as from mid-range.  What Zylan has is the height, length, heart, and wisdom to succeed. He is more mature than many of the 19 and 20-year-old athletes taken in the first and second round of the NBA draft.  

Watching his workouts reveals better form and release of his jump-shot as well as a display of solid ball-handling skill.  Remember, Zylan often brought the ball up in Remy Martin’s absence. Further, against tough defenses, most specifically zones, Cheatham played in the middle of the defense where all critical decisions are made offensively.  Look for Zylan to work on moving the ball faster and more efficiently over the summer. It’s my personal opinion Zylan will make a young Pelican roster and be a role player.

Throughout and since the rollercoaster that was last week, the Sun Devil fan favorite has kept his spirits high. His excitement level remains unchanged.




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