Duke men's basketball 2022-23 player review: Dereck Lively II

Dereck Lively II contests a shot against Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament first round.
Dereck Lively II contests a shot against Oral Roberts in the NCAA tournament first round.

With Duke’s season officially in the books, the Blue Zone breaks down each player's season, including comparisons to their preseason projections. We previously looked at Jaylen Blakes, Jaden Schutt, Jacob Grandison, Ryan Young, Mark Mitchell, Dariq Whitehead and Tyrese Proctor. Next up is Dereck Lively II:

Dereck Lively II

  • Year: Freshman
  • Height: 7-foot-1
  • Position: Center
  • This year’s stat line: 5.2 PPG, 5.4 RPG, 1.1 APG, 2.4 BPG, 20.5 MPG
  • The Blue Zone's projected stat line: 14.8 PPG, 8.8 RPG, 0.9 APG, 1.8 BPG, 29 MPG

Season breakdown: As the No. 2 overall recruit in the country, Dereck Lively II was slated to help continue the Blue Devils’ winning tradition. Regardless of his stat line, the Philadelphia native had a strong impact for Duke  as one of its best players during the 2022-23 campaign.

Lively’s much-anticipated freshman season started off slow thanks to a calf injury that kept him out of the starting lineup until Nov. 18 against Delaware. Despite earning the starting job upon his return, he did not make a strong impact as he scored over 10 points just once and never garnered double-digit rebounds in any game. With a disappointing start to his college career, Lively was benched once more, starting with the road contest against N.C. State on Jan. 4. Graduate center Ryan Young took over for the next five games, but Lively took back his starting spot against Georgia Tech on Jan. 28. 

Through his first 20 games as a Blue Devil, Lively averaged just 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds per game while being overshadowed by star freshman Kyle Filipowski. However, in Duke’s rivalry home matchup against North Carolina, the Philadelphia native had his breakout game. With a showing that few Blue Devil fans will forget for years, Lively grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked eight shots to earn the 63-57 victory. While he only scored four points, his tallies came on put-back dunks that gave Duke and the Cameron Crazies significant momentum.

The Blue Devils went on to win ten of their next 13 games, largely due to Lively’s role as the ultimate team player. He played more minutes, took on a higher scoring role and looked much more confident as Duke fought its way to an ACC title. Even in the Blue Devils’ Round of 32 loss to No. 4-seed Tennessee in the NCAA tournament, Lively played a season-high 36 minutes, garnered 11 rebounds and blocked a pair of shots. While he never hit his ceiling as a scorer, his unselfish style of play made this season unforgettable for Duke nation. His days in a Blue Devil uniform may be over, but Lively brought confidence and provided plenty of highlights in Scheyer's debut season.

Results relative to expectations: Defensively, Lively came just as advertised – one of the nation’s very best rim protectors who earned ACC All-Defensive Team honors. Per CBB Analytics, Duke was a strong six points per 100 possessions better on defense with him on the court, and he was more than capable of defending on the perimeter as well. 

His offensive package, however, failed to turn heads for most of the year. Lively never scored more than 13 points in any game and garnered less offensive boards than Young despite his height advantage to most opponents. That is not to say that Lively was a bad offensive player – he was an emphatic lob and put-back threat, and his ability to feast on high-efficiency shots led to a strong 65.8% shooting mark. Still, for a 7-foot-1 center, his averages of 5.2 points and 5.4 rebounds per game were disappointing, raising questions about his offensive floor in the NBA. 


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