Since the season opener against the Spurs, all eyes have been on the 19-year-old rookie out of Duke, in Dereck Lively II. Drafting Lively theoretically filled in defensive holes that have persisted in Dallas over a number of years, really since the days of Tyson Chandler. This has been evident since his first game, and though early on in the season, Lively has lived up to (and really exceeded) expectations.
The Mavericks drafted Lively with the idea of an immediate impact being felt, which is an expectation that brings a lot of pressure. None of this pressure has faltered his game in any way. Just as the Mavericks hoped when drafting Lively in the lottery, he has provided much needed rim protection and steadily hauls in 7.6 rebounds/game. This rebounding becomes even more important when you account for the increase in pace that Dallas has looked to accomplish this season.
As of late, Lively suffered a lower back contusion against the Lakers that sidelined him for the subsequent Clipper matchup. In this matchup, the Clippers outscored Dallas 52-32 inside the paint. Ivica Zubac had 11 points and 14 rebounds in this game. And sure you won’t chalk up a loss entirely to Lively being out, but it’s clear that his impact was missed. Dallas also shot the ball particularly poorly against the Clippers, going nearly 6 minutes without a field goal in the 3rd quarter.
The rookie campaign for Dereck Lively 14 games in has been fun to watch. For a team that wants to win now, Lively’s impact has been exactly what Dallas had hoped for. He has the support of his teammates and his coaching staff, which is the best place for a rookie to be.
While the Mavericks began the season at an impressive 8-2 start, Dallas has been eliminated from the In-Season tournament after falling to 1-2 in the West: Group B standings.