The Oklahoma City Thunder recently signed two players to two different types of contracts. Lu Dort (4-year, $5.4M) and Devon Hall (replacement contract.) Both Dort and Hall are young in terms of experience in the league, with just 34 games of experience between the two.

However, the illusion of youth, in terms of an NBA career, makes one of them unlike the other.

True youth and fake youth.

OKC’s roster of young talent has collected quite a manifest of names as the Thunder inch closer and closer to a tear-down/rebuild and plunge into a new team era. Seven players currently on the roster can realistically be mentioned in the debate of future value and building-block potential. Below is a breakdown of the aforementioned seven, categorized by the number of years they have been in the league, with the ultimate label of True or Fake youth.


Darius Bazley – PF

G: 53|PTS: 4.5|TRB: 3.7|AST: 0.5|FG%: 38.3|FG3%: 30.0

Darius Bazley is the youngest player on this list, having just turned 20 June 12. Bazley was drafted 23rd overall in the 2019 NBA draft by the Thunder. Surrounded by a sea of question marks due to his unconventional gap-year between his senior year of high school and the draft, Bazley was exactly the high-risk/high-reward type of player the Thunder front office like to take chances on. From day one, Baz has been a rotation player for OKC. He has shown glimpses of a high basketball I.Q. and skilled polish to go along with his raw athleticism. These qualities paired with his age make Darius easily one of the most exciting building blocks on the roster.

Verdict: True Youth

Luguentz Dort – SG/SF/PG

G: 29|PTS: 6.2|TRB: 1.9|AST: 0.7|FG%: 41.4|FG3%: 30.1

As mentioned above, Dort is a 21-year-old rookie who made his way to the Thunder via free agency after being passed upon twice by every team in the league. Once given an opportunity, it didn’t take long for Lu to carve out a starting role for himself. His suffocating defense prowess, competency to take on ball-handling duties, and ability to knock down a wide-open corner three earned him a 4-year contract and legitimate opportunity of long-term employment with the Thunder.

Verdict: True Youth


Deonte Burton – SG/SF

G: 66|PTS: 2.7|TRB: 1.2|AST: 0.3|FG%: 38.5|FG3%: 24.7

Another player who is recent to the team, and has been seemingly usurped by Dort, is Deonte Burton. Burton is a 26-year-old 2nd-year man with 66 games of action under his belt to the tune of a mere collective 524 minutes. Following a 4-year college career, Burton went undrafted in the 2017 NBA Draft. Ultimately he became a standout in the Korean Basketball League the following year and earned himself an invite to Summer League from the Thunder. In 2018 Burton signed a two-way contract and eventually earned a standard contract (3-year $3M/$1.2M guaranteed) in 2019.

Burton’s game can be described as “sneaky-athletic” and “eternally confident”. Burton captured the heart of many Thunder fans in the 2018 Las Vegas summer league tournament. He donned a mask and dunked on everyone, as though he were Russell Westbrook himself. At the end of the day, Burton is 26 and has yet to carve out a role, or even stay on the floor with the Thunder.

Verdict: Fake Youth

Hamidou Diallo – SF/SG

G: 89|PTS: 4.8|TRB: 2.5|AST: 0.4|FG%: 45.3|FG3%: 18.6

Hamidou Diallo is a human highlight reel. Winner of the 2019 NBA dunk contest his rookie year, Diallo became a household name around the league. Hamidou’s high-flying ability put him on the map, despite being picked 45th overall in the 2018 NBA draft. It is uncommon for the two words “average” and “elite” to be the best description of an NBA player. Diallo, however, is exactly that, an elite athlete, who is average at everything else. At nearly 22-years of age (July 31) Hami is still ascending in his skills and abilities, however, the question remains: how high can he go? Touting an abysmal 18.6 career percentage from 3, it will be very difficult for Diallo to make it long term in the modern NBA if he doesn’t develop a reliable jumper.

Verdict: Jury Still Out

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander – PG/SG/SF

G: 145|PTS: 14.5|TRB: 4.2|AST: 3.3|FG%: 47.4|FG3%: 35.7

It is no secret Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is regarded by many in the Thunderverse as “the future” of the franchise. The soon-to-be 22-year-old (July 12) was a lottery pick in the 2018 NBA draft, taken 11th overall by the L.A. Clippers. From the moment he laced them up in the NBA, he has proved 11th was far too low of a pick for the talent level he possesses. Shai’s game can be described as “smooth” and “seemingly effortless”, as he plays like a vet with mature decision-making ability and willingness to let the game come to him. He can shoot, he can pass, he can defend, and he can play three positions. You already know what I’m gonna say, partna.

Verdict: True Youth


Terrance Ferguson – SF/SG

G: 185|PTS: 4.9|TRB: 1.4|AST: 0.7|FG%: 41.2|FG3%: 34.0

At age 22, Terrance Ferguson has been with the Thunder since he was drafted 21st overall in the 2017 NBA draft. Opting for a less conventional route to the NBA, Ferg played one year in Australia’s NBL in lieu of the one-and-done college option many high-level prospects take.

Ferguson is an exceptional athlete, capable of playing well above the rim. On top of his quickness and athletic ability, he is an above-average defender with a fairly reliable 3-point stroke. However, much of Ferguson’s positive attributes tend to get overshadowed by his often debilitating lack of confidence on the court. Similar to watching a game of “Hot Potato”, Ferg often looks as though he cannot get rid of the ball fast enough. His unwillingness to contribute anything more to the offense than reversing the ball the second he touches it makes him significantly less valuable than he is capable of being. But again, he’s only 22.

Verdict: True Youth

Abdel Nader – SF

G: 157|PTS: 4.3|TRB: 1.8|AST: 0.5|FG%: 41.3|FG3%: 34.8

Abdel Nader (27 on Sep. 25) is a sharp-shooter fabled to shoot better than anyone in the organization…in practice. Nader was a 4-year college man at Iowa State and was drafted by Boston 58th overall in the 2016 NBA draft. Nader spent his first season (age 23) developing in the G-League, where he actually earned the Rookie of the Year award. In 2017 he agreed to a 4-year $6M deal with the Celtics and finally had his NBA debut (age 24) Oct. 18th of that year. OKC traded for Nader in 2018 and received cash consideration for taking on his contract.

Nader has played in a total of 157 career NBA games (7 starts) and a total of 1972 minutes. He plays the game as though he has much to learn, often lost on defense, and unable to move on offense without the ball. If he were 22, these things could be overlooked, but that is not the case. His NBA experience and on-court personality resemble that of a young player. The reality is, he is actually older than Nerlens Noel, and only 10 days younger than Dennis Schröder.

Verdict: Fake Youth