Mavs address interior needs with draft-day trade for Duke center Lively

Dallas Mavericks assistant general manager Michael Finley extolled the virtues of Dereck Lively II on Thursday night, then he paused and collected himself before delivering a message that gave Mavs fans a shot in the arm.

“I hate to put this comparison on him because it’s kind of unfair,” Finley said of Lively. “But he kind of reminded me of a younger Tyson Chandler.

“But again, it’s unfair. But if he continues to grow and improve in the areas that I think he needs to improve on, that would be a comparison that will be fair to him as his career continues.”

Mavs general manager Nico Harrison also said he “absolutely” noticed a resemblance between Chandler and Lively.

“When he first walked in the gym, that’s what everybody was saying,” Harrison said. “They were like, ‘Dang, a young Tyson.’ And then the next day Tyson came to practice and I’m like “You missed it by a day.”

Chandler was the defensive linchpin of Dallas’ defense as the Mavs shocked LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the Miami Heat to capture the 2011 NBA title.

Lively, who the Mavs acquired Thursday in a draft day trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder, is a 7-1, 230-pounder who averaged 5.4 points, five rebounds and was second in the Atlantic Coast Conference with 2.4 blocks in his only year with the Duke Blue Devils this past season. Lively was selected to the ACC All-Freshman team and the ACC All-Defensive team, and his 82 blocks trails only Mike Gminski (90) for the most blocks ever by a Duke freshman.

The Mavs agreed in principle to acquire the draft rights to Lively from Oklahoma City in exchange for the draft rights to Cason Wallace in a Livelytrade that is not yet final. The Mavs selected Cason with the 10th pick, while the Thunder took Lively with the pick.

The acquisition of Lively fills a huge need for the Mavs.

Finley said what impressed the Mavs most about Lively is “just his energy. He’s young, he’s athletic, he’s something we don’t have on our roster right now.

“We see a guy that size — 7-foot-plus — who runs like a deer, (has) good hands, he’s got good defensive instincts. We think he’s a guy that can definitely help us in our spots — a weakness — which is defense, in my opinion, defense and rebounding.”

Lively shot a whopping 65.8 percent from the field and played just 19.8 minutes per game for the Blue Devils. And he hopes to step in and contribute and be a rotation player for the Mavs as early as next season.

Asked how he sees himself fitting in with the Mavs, Lively said, “Just being able to be an anchor on defense, someone that my teammates can rely on to have their back. I want to be able to protecting the rim, being able to call everything I see on the floor on the defensive end.

“And when it comes to the offensive end, I want to be able to just do what I can to help my teammates get open and find the right play and find the right shot.”Lively

Finley believes Lively has what it takes to be a rotation player for the Mavs next season.

“I just think he’s got to continue to improve how he left school — the defensive intensity,” Finley said. “The one thing from rookies, the game is so much different from college to the NBA. The quicker he picks up the defensive philosophies (and) the offensive philosophies, I think he has a better chance to get on the floor quicker.

“It might take some time, but I think he’s the type of player that you might have to throw him in the mix a little bit to get his feet wet to say he gets comfortable with the NBA game. But again, once you see him on the court — we don’t have guys like that on our roster. So he’s going to stick because of his size, his athleticism, his (solid) play on the defensive end, rebounding, shooting- blocking. He’s a great talent for us.”

There’s a video that went viral of Lively draining one three-pointer after another. That’s similar to what Finley said he witnessed when he flew to Los Angeles to watch one of Lively’s practice sessions.

Lively“He had an agent training in LA where he actually shot the ball really well. . .and we weren’t going there to see it,” Finley said. “But he put on a show from three-point range. But we don’t want to count on him being a three-point threat for us right away.

“Then he came to work out for us here where he had another great practice. We put him through some defensive concepts that we use throughout the year and he picked them up quickly. He communicated with our coaches – very vocal. “

Although Harrison was also impressed with Lively’s three-point shooting, that wasn’t exactly why he made him a member of the Mavs.

“I think eventually he’ll be able to do it,” Harrison said. “But the reason we really like him is if you watch him, he talks the defense, he’s got great feet, he can shut down players, he runs the floor and he finishes above the rim.”

Lively lost his father in 2011 when he was just seven years old, and his mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2014. Lively, 19, has been described as a person of character who used some of her NIL funds to buy a home to his mother near her job at Penn State, and to buy a headstone for his father.

“We brought the kid in for a practice and we had an interview after practice and he shared his story,” Finley said. “It was a touching story but it showed the human side of him, that he is a strong person who deals with a lot at a young age but deals with it in a professional way.

“He never talked in his interview about blaming anyone because of his misfortunes growing up. But he embraced it to make him stronger. Taking care of his mother, that hit me. So I was really impressed with the young man, not just as a basketball player, but after that interview, as a human being.”

The Mavs traded picks with OKC to acquire Lively. But they also saw Orlando use the No. 11 pick to draft Michigan’s Jett Howard.

“There was a lot going on, a lot of what ifs,” Finley said. “But Nico was sold on choosing (Lively) and making oneLively decision to move back and get him. And when our GM made that decision, we were all involved in trying to make it happen.

“We crossed our fingers that the team between 10 and 12 (which was Orlando) didn’t take him and it worked out. So we were happy and excited about the pick.”

So was Lively. But first he had to trade his OKC hat for the Mavs hat after NBA commissioner Adam Silver announced the trade.

“I heard every time Mr. Silver would come out and say there’s been a deal, so I’d turn around and wonder who it was, and the next thing you know he’s saying my name,” Lively said. “So you just have to be able to roll with the flow and that’s kind of how the NBA works.”

Regarding being nominated, Lively said, “As soon as I heard my name, it was a dream that had just begun.

Lively“When I heard I was being traded, it was something I tried to embrace. As soon as they told me I was going to Dallas, I was ecstatic about it. I feel like I can fill a role there.”

Finley described Lively as being “pretty high” on the Mavs’ draft board. Afterwards, it was mission accomplished as far as the Mavs were concerned.

“We were excited to see him, quote unquote, slide into a position where we could acquire him,” Finley said. “We were really happy that he was available to us to get him where we got him.

“He’s got the work ethic to back up the type of guy we think he is, and he’s got a great heart, and I think he’ll be a great teammate, too. So we’re looking forward to having him on our roster.”

Twitter: @DwainPrice

Leave a Comment