The Dallas Mavericks entered this offseason with the goal of bouncing back from their failures this past season. They failed to even qualify for the Play-In Tournament, missing out on the postseason entirely.
With a long summer of necessary improvements ahead of them, Dallas should have had one goal in mind - improve the team around superstar Luka Doncic.
But with those guys in place, the Mavericks needed to fill out the rest of their roster, and the biggest goals were reshaping the center position and improving on the defensive end.
Lively didn’t have an amazing season at Duke on the offensive end, but his defensive talent was evident, as he was elite on that side of the ball despite playing relatively limited minutes.
And in the Mavericks’ first Summer League game, Lively showed off his defensive skills, proving why Dallas took him with their first selection in the draft.
In 16:29 of action, the 19-year-old big man put up four points, five rebounds, and one steal. The statline wasn’t super impressive, but his defensive showing was evident.
Lively’s goals don’t stop at Summer League, though. He is ready to play a big role in the NBA, telling Jorge Sedano of ESPN that he wants to be a “dominant force” in the NBA. (H/t Michael Mulford of Dallas Basketball)
""Thinking about accomplishments, I want to be able to be All-Rookie, all that. I just want to be able to be a dominant force, no matter if that's on the defensive end or offensive end.""- Dereck Lively II
It’s great to hear that the rookie big man has lofty goals, as he could be a huge piece of the Mavericks’ future if he pans out as well as they hope he will.
Defensively, Lively should be able to make an impact in Dallas from Day 1. His length and athleticism will make him the best defender the Mavericks have at the five, and if he progresses well enough on offense, he could be the starter by the end of the year.
That will be the key for Lively. If he can improve offensively to the point where he’s effectively catching lobs and running the pick-n-roll, Dallas should feel comfortable pairing him next to Doncic and Irving in the starting lineup.
With Lively’s big dreams and the Mavericks’ support, the sky could truly be the limit for the young center.