5. Dereck Lively II
Last week's rank: 6
After returning from an ankle sprain, Dereck Lively II will reclaim his spot in the top five of the rankings after being ranked sixth last week. Lively II has had a very strong two games since his return despite only being 1-1 in those two games.
Regardless of only playing two games since returning from injury, Lively II has had a great impact in both. In Dallas' final game of the seven-game homestand, Lively II had an impactful 12 rebounds. He only scored six points throughout the game but had seven offensive boards.
Fans could instantly feel Lively II's impact. In the previous game against the Pelicans, the Mavericks had been dominated on the boards, and specifically the offensive glass. Center Jonas Valanciunas punished the Mavs all night, creating multiple second-chance opportunities, which led to the shorthanded victory over the Mavs.
In the final game against the Pelicans, it was the complete opposite for the Mavericks. Lively II returned and created an instant jolt of rebounding and defense that the Mavericks previously didn't have. They would go on to win 125-120 in a tight game.
Against the Los Angeles Lakers, the Mavericks would see the same impact out of Lively II in the first quarter. He scored the team's first six points and couldn't be stopped. However, things would flip, and the Lakers' intensity on the glass would pick up.
Without Lively II, the score could have been even worse for Dallas. His double-double not only kept the Mavericks in it through periods of the game, but it was also a promising sign to fans that Lively II was not the defensive problem.