NBA

Just how impactful has rookie Derek Lively II been for the Mavs’ journey to Finals?

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There are many reasons for Dallas‘ successful season, starting with the offensive powerhouse of the Luka Doncic, Kyrie Irving duo, the acquirement of new players like Daniel Gafford and PJ Washington before the trade deadline, and of course, the development of the first-round prized rookie Dereck Lively II.

The 7-foot-1 athlete, who was selected in the All-Rookie second team, put up averages of 8.8 points on 74.7% shooting from the field, along with 6.9 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.4 blocks per game this regular season.

But most importantly, the team’s leaders love the 20-year-old center. For a player like Doncic, having this energetic lob threat and rim protector is ideal, as the rookie’s proven to be the missing piece of this Mavericks puzzle.

“I mean, he’s exactly what you would want Luka to have,” GM Nico Harrison said about their relationship, especially as Doncic is arguably the league’s best pick-and-roll orchestrator. “Maybe you would want him to be a veteran and not a rookie, but he is the prototype.”

The Slovenian has been praising the youngster ever since the start of the campaign, but he’s aware that Lively has kept his powerful contributions all throughout the playoffs. “It’s insane, man, and he’s doing this while being a rookie,” he said after Dereck’s 12-point, 15-rebound display in the Western semifinals Game 6 closeout win against the Thunder.

For Lively, he’s admitted to being intrigued by the possibility of playing alongside superstars like Luka and Kyrie before arriving to Texas. He even revealed recently that he always had Dallas as his preferred destination.

“When I looked at the draft, this is the spot where I wanted to be because I knew if I came here, I was going to make an impact,” he told the press. “I could come here, learn, and just try to be myself. That’s what I’ve done this whole time and I feel like I’ve grown.” Now, it sounds like a match made in heaven.

Luka Doncic Knew Rookie Dereck Lively II Was A Good Fit As Soon As They First Met In The Offseason

While everyone was crazed over Victor Wembanyama’s first-ever season in the NBA, other players enduring their first campaign as professionals have also become extremely influential inside their rosters, just a Dereck Lively II has done so for the Mavericks.

While the Spurs and Thunder big men eventually led the race for the Rookie of the Year award, Dallas have found a center for the future in their new 7-foot-1 athlete. Dereck instantly impressed club superstar Luka Doncic.

According to their coach Jason Kidd, the connection between them was almost immediate, as the Slovenian realized he could run the court, find open spaces and dunk almost any ball he hands over to him. “It started in September when they met,” the tactician said.

“Luka found out very quickly that Lively can catch and finish. That was something he was looking for. I think the relationship started there. There was trust on Day 1, and whenever there’s trust between a quarterback and a receiver, it will only get better,” Kidd added.

Things got ever better on Opening Night in San Antonio, as all eyes were on Wembanyama. However, it was Lively who turned heads, scoring 16 points while hitting 7-of-8 shots in 30 minutes, and adding 10 rebounds to his first-ever NBA stat line.