The Mavericks have been looking for a player like Lively for a while, and they may have found their long-term solution
The Dallas Mavericks were one of the busiest teams last week NBA Draft. It was long predicted that the team was interested in trading back from their 10 spot, and also looking to shed a contract or two. If the draft was a checklist, they ticked all the boxes.
It’s quite a turnaround in momentum after last season’s fiasco, when the Mavericks tripped into a lottery pick amid the disgust of NBA Twitter’s competitive integrity committee. But amid the frenzy of the Mavericks, who now have two young defensive talents in Dereck Lively and Olivier-Maxence Prosper added to the fold, it’s worth reminding ourselves that rookie development often takes time (seasons) and is fraught with growing pains. . The Mavericks desperately need depth and contributors up and down the roster next season. Before we get to free agency this coming week and better understand how they fit in, let’s take a look at what they can deliver next season, and so on in their development. First up is Lively!
The 7’1 big man spent one season at Duke University, a starter in 27 of his 34 games. Lively arrived in Durham last fall as the top prospect in 247Sports’ 2022 roster. His development, and that of others in the class, was likely hampered by high school seasons in the pandemic, but his potential was obvious. His start with Duke was uneven, suffering a calf injury in October that hampered preseason practices and early season games.
I mention all of this to say that Lively didn’t really regain her momentum until the end of January. Until then, in 20 games (13 starts), Lively averaged just 4.4 points, 4.1 rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes per game. match. The shift turned on February 4 in a clash against rival North Carolina where he posted a season-best 14 rebounds and eight blocks in 34 minutes. In the last 14 games (all starts), Lively averaged 6.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and three blocks in 26 minutes per game. Clearly, this second version of Lively is what the Mavericks will build on.
Unless something happens in free agency, Lively will be the Mavericks’ best rim protector on day one. He’s an athletic shot-blocker who knows how to be vertical and play big and isn’t afraid to lift to deflect a shot. Many of the clips you’ll find of Lively’s shot blocking are impressive (he boasted a 12.7 percent block rate last season), but also show him soaring into the lane to gobble up any willing driver. The Mavericks would love for him to roam like this, but the distance in the NBA will make this a challenge. It will be important for Lively to be comfortable in the space, face players at the level of a screen and switch the ball on and off.
Vibrant defense in space
Thanks for the clip Hoop Intellect you’ll see Lively navigate the pick-and-roll. There will be learning curve in this set. He flashes an ability to stay quick on his feet, being present enough near the free throw line to discourage the drive and get back to the dive.
And this is where we have to talk about his pollution. Lively averaged eight fouls per game. 100 possessions. This is troubling, though not impossible to eventually overcome, though it will be why his minutes are limited in his rookie season. Lively won’t be able to roam as freely, forced to make multiple reads at once — especially given the state of the Mavericks defense. And being out of position often leads to cheap mistakes by young bigs.
Vibrant late recovery
The difference between clip one and clip two will be the difference in Lively being consistently on the floor and fighting for playing time.
Offensively will be straight forward for Lively. Given the limitations of his current offensive skills, he is tasked with screening and crashing. In addition to the rookie, the team currently has JaVale McGee, Maxi Kleber and Richaun Holmes. The Mavericks would be smart to find a solution in moving McGee (or I suppose Holmes) and re-signing Dwight Powell, if only to teach Lively how to properly set a strong screen. There’s also some dynamic chemistry Powell has with Luka Doncic in the lob game that Lively could pick up on — as that develops, the rookie will likely be more impactful from the dunker spot. Powell around or not, it will take time. But Lively’s athleticism paired with Doncic’s touch should speed up that part of the game.
If Lively can navigate and rebound defensively and be a lob threat for Doncic on the other end while limiting his fouling, Lively could be 20 minutes per game. player and an anchor for the defense his rookie year.
On the defensive end, outside of limiting his mistakes, Lively could probably stand to strengthen his frame a bit. This will help his defense in the paint and improve his rebounding. It is unlikely that Lively will ever be able to defend herself at the level of the screen or change into space. But his floor defensively is strong enough that natural growth on that end of the floor should make him a high-end defensive big for the next several seasons.
For him to unlock a level of play that will make him truly indispensable is improvement on the offensive end. At Duke, Lively showed decent flashes of decision making out of the short throw, was able to read the defensive rotation and find a slasher or shooter. Knowing that the Mavericks use this so much when Dwight Powell makes similar reads, Lively will be smart to develop this part of his game. Making those reads is what increased Powell’s playing time instead of a brigade of big men that have come through Dallas.
Lively pass in short throw
At Duke, Lively was not a good finisher near the rim in non-dunk situations. The Mavericks won’t ask him to do much around the paint offensively that doesn’t clean things up, but if he were to grow this even moderately, his vision to the corners will be crucial.
Lively to the corner
I hesitate to talk much about the shooting upside being thrown around Lively. That doesn’t mean he can’t develop that part of his game. But he has yet to show it at a competitive level. There were flashes of that in high school, and then was 2-of-13 from three at Duke, and then has shown some shooting ability in practice videos. Again, what the Mavericks need from him in the short and long term doesn’t involve spot-up shooting. So if this develops, it will come as a bonus.
The Mavericks will hope that Lively develops into a 28-minute-per-game player. game that starts a big man, able to swallow everything in the field and able to play in space. He’s ultra athletic and from the moment he was drafted last week it’s clear he understands his role. That’s extremely valuable for a rookie and should allow him to contribute in his rookie season and maybe even grow into the kind of starting center the Mavericks have been looking for since winning the title.