2023 NBA Mock Draft: Mavericks go defense, Pistons surprise at 5

2023 NBA Draft, Victor Wembanyama
2023 NBA Draft, Victor Wembanyama / Christian Liewig - Corbis/GettyImages
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14. New Orleans Pelicans acquire Dereck Lively II

The Pelicans have a deep young roster, but they must figure out how to take the next step. Zion Williamson played just 29 games, which is just above his average after four seasons. Can New Orleans count on him to be their star moving forward? They are hoping to develop Dyson Daniels to join their young core with center and point guard being their biggest question marks.

Lively was the number two player in his class coming out of high school, but the 7’1 big man struggled during his lone season at Duke where he averaged just 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game. His minutes were limited in part because of foul trouble. The 19-year-old averaged 2.4 blocks, but 2.7 personal fouls per game for the Blue Devils. Lively was trying to block everything, and it created plenty of foul issues.

Do the Pelicans want a rim protector and rebounder next to Zion in the frontcourt? Lively has a massive 7’6 wingspan and boundless defensive potential. He averaged north of seven rebounds and three blocks per game over Duke’s final 15 games where his impact shined.

It feels like New Orleans could go in any direction with this selection, but they will likely shoot for upside. Dereck Lively could be an elite rim protector if he reaches his ceiling, which will have multiple teams intrigued.