As basketball season quickly approaches, the Blue Zone takes a detailed look at Duke men’s basketball’s 2022-23 roster, with a preview of each player. Previously, we’ve highlighted Stanley Borden, Spencer Hubbard, Max Johns, Kale Catchings, Ryan Young, Christian Reeves, Jaylen Blakes, Jaden Schutt, Tyrese Proctor, Mark Mitchell, Kyle Filipowski, Jacob Grandison and Dariq Whitehead. Up next is 2022's top recruit, Dereck Lively II:
Dereck Lively II
Last year’s stat line: N/A
Game breakdown: As a McDonald’s All-American, state champion, five-star recruit and the No. 1 player in his class, Dereck Lively II’s rankings and accolades from his high school career represent his extensive skill set and athletic ability. Sitting at 7-foot-1 and 230 pounds, Lively uses his size to be a dual-threat around the rim. On the defensive end, he is a master shot blocker, averaging 4.5 blocks per game in his senior year. In the frontcourt, he frequently lands dunks and alley-oops when he is coming off the pick and roll or catching a sneaky low pass in the paint.
This ability makes Lively a good traditional big man, but what makes him exceptional is how he has adapted his play style for the modern game. Although large in stature, Lively has the coordination to play like a guard. He can defend any position on the floor in the switch. On offense, he balances his ability in the paint with his shooting around the arc, leaving opponents guessing whether he is going to run a pick and roll or pick and pop. This allows him to get the separation needed to score.
Lively’s ability to make advances in his skills are what make him a standout player. He was not always at the top of his class during high school, ranking in the 40s and 50s during his junior year, but he worked hard to improve his game where it mattered, and has found success. As he continues to work on his ability to handle the ball, pass and spread the floor, he will bring new highlights to the court in every game.
Role on the team: Lively was primed to be an immediate starter for the Blue Devils this year, until he strained his calf in the preseason. He is now considered “week-to-week,” after missing Countdown to Craziness and Saturday's closed scrimmage against Houston. Out of precaution, he may not play until a more important game, potentially making a return when Duke takes on defending national champion Kansas Nov. 15, or later. Once Lively returns, however, he is expected to be at the focal point of the Blue Devils’ offense and defense this year.
Alongside Kyle Filipowski as the second center in the starting lineup, this team, with Lively, is playing with size. Taller offenses sometimes struggle with defending and shooting, but Lively will make the Blue Devils an exception. He can use his 3-point shooting ability and switch defending to pressure opponents on both ends of the floor. Deploying his small ball player skills in combination with his height and 7-foot-8 wingspan to dominate both ends of the floor could lead Duke to a No.1 seed in this year’s NCAA tournament.
NBA comparison: Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner is a close comparison to Lively. Both big men are highly dominant around the net, primarily functioning as rim protectors, rebound go-getters and alley-oop connectors. Both players make powerful plays around the basket that create opportunities and momentum for their team, which are essential in close games. Turner is stronger than Lively, and his game is slightly more polished. If Lively can use his time at Duke to get stronger and hone in on his skills, however, he will be ready to play alongside him in the NBA by this time next year.
Projected stats: 14.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.8 BPG, 29 MPG
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