How Mavericks' Daniel Gafford can raise the ceiling of rookie Dereck Lively II

Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks
Oklahoma City Thunder v Dallas Mavericks / Sam Hodde/GettyImages

The Dallas Mavericks are hot on a six-game winning streak and will look to make it seven with their Thursday matchup against the Phoenix Suns. Going into the All-Star break, the Mavericks took care of business against their in-state foe, the San Antonio Spurs.

The 116-93 victory saw the Mavericks take care of business after a sloppy first quarter. With newly acquired forward P.J. Washington, the Mavericks looked elite on the defensive end of the ball. Washington constantly gave the Mavericks life with his 7-foot-2 wingspan and created havoc for any Spurs player looking to make an easy bucket.

With the win over the Spurs, the Mavericks allowed a season-low in points scored with 93. Since making the trade for Daniel Gafford and Washington, the Mavericks' defense has looked elite; they have ranked at the top in defensive rating over their six-game win streak.

How Mavericks' Daniel Gafford can raise the ceiling of rookie Dereck Lively II

With the Mavericks playing top-tier defense throughout their past six games, it's important to note that rookie center Dereck Lively II just returned from injury. Since returning, fans have questioned how he and Gafford would play alongside one another.

Despite only playing one game together, fans can see the connection that the two have already built by what they both have said about the other. Coming out of the All-Star break, that connection could prove to be even stronger, considering they have the same playstyle.

Recently, Gafford made an appearance on the "Mavs Step Back Podcast" and while on the show, Gafford was asked about what it was like playing on the same team as Lively II. Gafford said, "In all honesty, it's literally just like looking in the mirror."

With Lively II just turning 20, having someone older and who has spent more time in the league with a similar playstyle could be more beneficial than fans realize. Both are great rim rollers and have proved to be A-tier shot-blockers throughout their young careers, which is why Gafford could be the best thing for Lively II.

The Mavericks' next game will be Thursday night against the Phoenix Suns. Lively II and Gafford's expertise will be showcased on full display along with other improvements fans are looking to see the team build on. For more updates on Daniel Gafford, Dereck Lively II, and Dallas Mavericks basketball, stay plugged in.