The Mavericks have decided to start rookie center Dereck Lively II in every preseason game thus far. Throughout the three contests, Lively II has averaged 3.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 0.7 assists, and 2.0 blocks per game. The former Blue Devil has also played 19.3 minutes per game.
While these stats aren't earth-shattering, it's imperative that Lively II get the necessary reps before the season begins. Although Lively II is immensely talented, he is a relatively raw prospect.
After dominating high school basketball, largely due to his fantastic physical gifts. Lively II displayed vast potential at Duke but routinely looked tentative on offense. And, like many young bigs, Lively II demonstrated a propensity to foul.
3 reasons rookie Dereck Lively II should be the Mavericks' starting center
In college, Lively II started 27 of 34 games and averaged 20.6 minutes per game. On the defensive end, the seven-footer averaged an absurd 2.4 blocks per game. And, on a per-40-minute basis, that equates to 4.7 swats. On the downside, Lively II averaged 5.3 fouls per 40 minutes.
Although Lively II has a great physical profile and elite athleticism for his size, his offense left much to be desired. He only averaged 5.4 points per game and didn't display much passing acumen. But, Lively II's role wasn't to score or facilitate.
During his lone season in Durham, the Blue Devils only tasked Lively II with setting screens and rolling to the rim on offense. On defense, his responsibility was stretched further. Lively II was tasked with defending the rim, hedging picks, and rotating to defend cutters and slashers.
Now in the NBA, Lively II's responsibilities will be similar. But luckily for Lively II, there's more of a role for a rim-running, defensive-anchor in the NBA.
And as for the Mavericks, Dallas has been in search of this archetype for some time now. In recent seasons, the Mavs have deployed Dwight Powell at center. Although Powell is a high-motor player, he isn't a defensive asset. He holds career averages of 4.5 rebounds and 0.5 blocks per game.
While Powell is still an option to start at center, Lively II seems like the best candidate. He has future Defensive Player of the Year potential and will only get better with more reps. Here are three reasons that the Mavericks should start Dereck Lively II.
3. Gives him experience
As previously mentioned, Lively II only played 20.4 minutes per game as a freshman at Duke before declaring for the NBA Draft. He only played a total of 700 minutes in college. Conversely, Lively II's counterpart, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, played almost 2000 minutes during his collegiate career.
To put it lightly, Lively II is inexperienced. After a one-and-done season at Duke, where averaged more rebounds than points, a jump to NBA starter is a huge one.
The Mavericks used the twelfth overall selection on Lively II because of his tremendous physical traits and their longstanding need for a center. Lively II fit this description better than any other prospect in the draft available at the twelve.
With such a big investment, Dallas should surely play Lively II early and often. So far, he has been a part of the lineup. And fortunately for Dallas, he's played well in limited action.
Starting Lively II not only helps the Mavs now but will assuredly help their future endeavors. Dallas hasn't filled the five spot with a consistent starter for some time now. Dallas has cycled through numerous big men, albeit with little success.
Dallas may have finally found the answer in Lively II. And, Dallas should prioritize his development. Starting the seven-foot center is certainly the right move. The NBA is played at a much faster pace than college ball, and it takes time for players to become accustomed to this.
Lively II's offense will come and playing alongside star guards Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving will only make the transition easier. The former Blue Devil will only have to focus on catching lobs and positioning himself in the right spot to receive passes near the rim.
As for his defense, the more reps the better. Lively II will face numerous All-Star centers. And it'll take time to figure out how to defend these players adequately, without fouling.
Initial results are promising for the young center, but time will tell how he develops. Starting Lively II now and playing him around 20 minutes per game to start off his career looks like the right move.