9. Dereck Lively II is way ahead of initial expectations
When rumors surfaced that Dereck Lively II could become the starting center in Dallas heading into training camp, most Mavericks fans were caught off guard at the proposition of Lively II being ready to battle it out against the best centers in the NBA on a nightly basis.
However, that's not to undermine the intrigue that most Mavericks fans had in regard to Lively II starting after it became abundantly clear he was the best big man on Dallas' roster throughout the preseason.
Lively II has had some rough outings against the likes of veteran All-Star centers like Rudy Gobert (preseason) and Nikola Jokic, but he has looked extremely formidable against most competition. Lively II is building excellent chemistry in the pick and roll with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving, as he's leaps and bounds ahead of where he was at during the NBA Summer League in terms of offensive awareness.
He's emerging as a consistent double-double threat if he's able to stay out of foul trouble, and is becoming better at boxing out and learning from mistakes every game. Lively II is a stout enough rim protector against most teams for Dallas to suffice, but he has the tools to be one of the top shot-blockers in the league once he fully taps into his athletic gifts.
Lively II's ceiling extends beyond the roof of the American Airlines Center, but not many fans could've expected that he would be this NBA-ready after how raw he looked at Duke last year even if he still has his fair share of rookie woes.