Exclusive: Shaquille O'Neal reveals why Dereck Lively is 'perfect' for Luka and Kyrie

Dallas Mavericks, Dereck Lively II, Luka Doncic
Dallas Mavericks, Dereck Lively II, Luka Doncic / Cooper Neill/GettyImages

Last night, the Dallas Mavericks took a dominant 3-0 series lead over the Minnesota Timberwolves with a 116-107 win on their home floor.

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the Western Conference, and the role players around them have also stepped up when they've needed them.

Dallas' one-two punch at center with Dereck Lively II and Daniel Gafford continues to contain Minnesota's center duo of Karl-Anthony Towns and Rudy Gobert, and Gafford's re-emergence has helped them tremendously.

Exclusive: Shaquille O'Neal reveals why Dereck Lively is 'perfect' for Luka and Kyrie

While Gafford has been solid in this series, all eyes have been on Lively II. He has surpassed everyone's expectations, and he continues to be one of the most important players on this roster during the playoffs. Lively II ended up suffering a neck sprain during Game 3, but his performance on both ends during the playoffs has been great.

Lively II has been the center that closes the game for Dallas, and he has caught the eye of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal. I had the chance to sit down with O'Neal before Dallas took on Minnesota in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals, and he couldn't say enough nice things about the young rookie.

O'Neal raved about how Lively II plays his role "perfectly" for Dallas next to Doncic and Irving, and he said this was due to him not expecting too much right away and just accepting whatever is asked of him. He talked about how some players expect to be a star right when they step into the NBA, but O'Neal talked about how Lively II just plays his role and lets Doncic and Irving "eat."

O'Neal also dove into Lively II's work ethic, saying he "works extremely hard" and he loves Lively II's story after everything he's been through with his mother passing away earlier this year. He said part of the reason he's been so great in his role is his ability to set good screens.

O'Neal has been impressed with what Lively II has done this season, and the two chopped it up for a bit after Lively Ii finished his pregame workout, and he went on to have a good Game 3 before he got injured as he finished with 99 points, 99 rebounds, and 99 blocks.

Lively II's energy continues to be infectious for those around him, and he is performing like a seasoned veteran in the playoffs despite being just 20 years old.

For all the latest on Dereck Lively II and the Dallas Mavericks throughout the 2024 NBA Playoffs, stay tuned.