3. Dereck Lively II
Dereck Lively II has sailed past any possible expectations that fans or anyone in the Mavericks' organization could've set for him before the season started. After a rocky start to the preseason against Rudy Gobert in Abu Dhabi, many believed that Lively II wasn't ready to be a starting caliber center in the NBA,
Lively II's game has been amplified tremendously by playing with two dynamic guards in Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic, but that's not to say that Lively II hasn't put in the work to be in the position he is in today. Lively II has started all but one game for Dallas when he's been available this season, and the rookie center is showcasing the he is the Mavericks' rim protector of the future.
Lively II is averaging 9.2 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 1.4 blocks per game on 73.9 percent shooting from the field for the Mavericks this year, as his length and verticality at the center position has been something that the Mavericks have missed since Tyson Chandler was on the team. It's readily apparent that Lively II is making strides from game to game, as he's become increasingly stout this season against bigger-bodied opponents from a rebounding and defensive perspective.
Lively II has worked drastically on his touch around the basket too, and he's become a much more effective screener since summer league as well. Lively II plays with great energy and effort every time he steps on the floor, and while he may not be elite in any one category yet besides his rim-rolling, he's certainly trending towards being one of the most elite centers in the league in a few seasons. Dallas gets an A+ grade for drafting Lively II and LIvely II gets an A+ for how he's performed in his rookie season as well.