The big man is headed to the big stage.
With the 12th overall pick in Thursday night’s NBA Draft in Brooklyn, N.Y., former Duke phenom Dereck Lively II was selected by the Dallas Mavericks, following a trade with Oklahoma City. The first Blue Devil of the night to earn his ticket to professional stardom, the Philadelphia native is set to begin his promising career in Dallas after a memorable freshman season in Durham, where he led the team in blocks and helped head coach Jon Scheyer earn an ACC tournament championship in his first year at the helm.
After coming onto the collegiate scene as the No. 1 recruit in the country, Lively’s star did not burn as bright as some might have hoped. Sustaining a calf injury through the early goings of the 2022-23 campaign, the 7-foot-1 center’s potential beyond high school came into question. Nonetheless, Lively showed massive improvement as the season wore on, dominating in the paint with his rebounding prowess on both ends of the court and ability to execute dunk after flawless dunk while complementing the play of his fellow headliners like Kyle Filipowski.
Most impressively, the big man honed his craft on the defensive end, becoming a lethal shot blocker who could stare down even the most elite shooters. Nowhere was this more evident than in Duke’s home victory against North Carolina Feb. 4, where Lively accumulated a monstrous eight blocks under the brightest of lights. Combined with his 2.4 blocks per game and his nods to the All-ACC Defensive team and All-Freshman team, Lively promises elite play on both ends of the court with his pure agility in the paint and defensive skill.
With massive improvements over the course of the season and standout performances in the pre-draft process, Lively provides the Mavericks with the potential to mold the center of their dreams. If the Westtown School alum continues his upward trajectory and demonstrates more development and maturity, he could be a great asset in Dallas to balance a talented guard room featuring Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving.
His sustained growth in his position, coupled with his leadership mentality and calm demeanor under pressure, will help Lively make an instant impact on his new team.
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Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.