Film room: Analyzing Duke men's basketball center Dereck Lively II

Dereck Lively II is the top-ranked player in his class.
Dereck Lively II is the top-ranked player in his class.

A new era of Duke men's basketball is on the horizon, and with it comes an almost entirely new roster. In this series, the Blue Zone analyzes film on each of the Blue Devils' new signees and transfers for the 2022-23 season. We previously looked at Kale Catchings, Ryan Young, Jaden Schutt, Mark Mitchell and Dariq Whitehead. Next, let’s take a look at Dereck Lively II:

Arguably the most anticipated addition for Duke this year is ESPN’s #1 college recruit Dereck Lively II. The five-star center from West Chester, Pennsylvania is expected to be a crucial piece in the starting lineup for new head coach Jon Scheyer’s first season. 

Lively is a graduate of Westtown School, the same school that former Duke player Cam Reddish attended. He has a physical advantage over his opponents, weighing 215 pounds with a 7-foot-1 height and 7-foot-8 wingspan, and comes to Durham as the top-ranked player from Pennsylvania and the best center in the country. Lively performed well in the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League (EYBL), averaging 8.4 points, 6.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks per game, and eventually led his team to a Peach Jam Championship in July 2021, recording 13 points, 10 rebounds and 3 blocks on the way.

Lively is able to use his size and speed to be the anchor for his team in transition. He is a force to be reckoned with on the defensive end, as he denies opponents any easy baskets at the rim. In this clip from the McDonald’s All-American Game, the opposing player dribbles baseline and attempts a reverse layup, only for Lively to be right there for the block. His teammates are able to run the floor for an easy layup before the opposing team sets its defense. On the next play, the opposing player fakes a floater and Lively takes the bait, but is able to recover for a contest and an ultimate block. This propels his team to a long pass for a wide open layup on the other end. 

Lively is a constant threat at the rim for lobs and dunks. He helps his team get easy baskets and prevents the opposing team from getting any. As he continues to develop his post game and footwork, he can develop into a player that can create his own high percentage shots at the rim.

Even if Lively is not the primary option in a play, his mere presence alerts the opposing team. In this clip from his first varsity game last season, he starts the play in the dunker’s spot. After the primary ball handler gets two screens, he penetrates inside before passing it to Lively. The opposing defense is alerted, and four players become fixated on the 7-foot-1 center. Lively is patient, however, and passes it to the open player at the top of the key. The team shifts the ball around until it hits the corner player for a wide-open three. Lively’s presence and recognition of the collapsing defense propels his team to make baskets, and as he continues to improve his vision and basketball IQ, he can be an important player for Duke to run plays through.

Lively is capable of expanding his game beyond baskets around the rim. In this clip from the Nike Peach Jam Championship, his team is up by four points and looking to extend its lead and put the game away on offense. As the ball handler penetrates, Lively is positioned in the post. The ball gets poked away and Lively picks it up at the corner end of the arc. With four seconds left on the shot clock, he rises and makes the three-point shot to put his team up by seven points with 1:41 left in the game. Lively’s form is a great foundation to build upon as his game expands. He had no hesitation taking a difficult shot at an important time, which is a good sign of his confidence level to take risks and add new areas to his basketball expertise.

Lively enters this season with extraordinary physical advantages to make an immediate impact on this year’s Duke team. He has the potential to make his game multidimensional by adding a jump shot and post moves that can possibly help make the Blue Devils a contender again this year.


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