When Dereck Lively II was proclaimed a possible opening day starter for Dallas, Mavs fans as excited as they were, were also skeptical of the 19-year-old rookie’s ability to compete at the highest level throughout an 82-game regular season.
Lively II has certainly cemented himself as the best center on the Mavericks' roster through seven games amidst all those doubts though, and has even been labeled as the "perfect draft pick" (subscription required) by John Hollinger of The Athletic.
However, center is still an area of need through seven games for Dallas despite their electric 6-1 start. The argument can obviously be made that Dallas’ current big-man rotation of Lively II, Dwight Powell, and Maxi Kleber (when he’s been healthy) can suffice throughout a whole season.
1 Position the Mavericks still need to address this season
Powell has proved to be as serviceable of a backup big as you could hope for at this stage in his career, and his energy, basketball IQ, and leadership have been sorely needed on this Mavericks roster.
Lively II has proved that he can be Dallas’ tried and true rim protector from the jump, and has been an excellent rim roller by showcasing a much-improved understanding of screen setting and spacing. However, the young rookie has also shown that some aspects of his game will definitely take time to grow, especially against the top centers.
Lively II has been a great help-side rim protector and has been active in terms of being in the right place at the right time. That being said, he gets bodied defensively and on the glass against centers with more muscle and can easily get played out of the game by getting into foul trouble.
Lively II will likely become more consistent as the year goes on, but when things aren’t clicking or he’s sitting out for large stretches due to foul trouble, we saw just how fast the tables can turn for him when Nikola Jokic picked him apart in the Mavericks sole loss this season to Denver.
Maxi Kleber has been used in a lot of two-big lineups this season for Dallas but has missed nearly three games due to a toe injury. When he was playing though he looked like a far cry from his old self, as he was moving much slower laterally on defense and looked completely unconfident in his offensive game whatsoever.
If Lively II can avoid getting in foul trouble and play extended minutes and Kleber starts playing well again, it could negate the need for another big.
But as things currently stand, especially with Richaun Holmes completely out of the rotation, Dallas may need to scrounge another body up to play center at some point this season.
It wouldn’t be surprising if Dallas brought in another center to provide some defensive pop off the bench if Kleber continues to flail, or even a starting caliber big if Lively II isn’t consistent enough against good teams.
Dallas had been in trade rumors for a center all offseason, and while Lively II has easily planted himself in a position to be Dallas’ center of the future, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him to still have an integral role off the bench behind a veteran rim protector.
It would provide Lively II with yet another mentor who would also be more consistent than him on the court. Even a backup center or power forward would relieve a lot of stress upon Dallas’ coaching staff if they could theoretically come in and play better than Kleber currently is.
Only time will tell if Dallas’ current big man trifecta will be enough to make them a contender, but the option of trading for another big man likely hasn’t left Nico Harrison’s mind even though it wasn't exercised during the offseason.
We’ll have you covered with what the Mavericks do with their center rotation as well as everything else that involves the team going forward, so stay tuned.