The 2023 NBA Draft is right around the corner, and with each passing day, a new fan-favorite prospect emerges. New smokescreens get set off, and rumors run rampant like we are in a Middle School hallway. As we count down the hours until the OKC Thunder are on the clock with the 12th overall pick in the NBA Draft. Assuming OKC does not trade up in the draft, does Dereck Lively II offer enough value at pick 12?
Value is a tricky thing, and makes evaluating players like Dereck Lively II, specifically for the Thunder, difficult. In a vacuum, Lively II is a good player. Within that same vacuum, Lively II brings valuable tools for Oklahoma City. However, it is challenging to shake the feeling that the Duke big man would need to provide more back-for-your-buck value at pick 12.
What if the OKC Thunder select Duke big man Dereck Lively II?
The Oklahoma City Thunder are setting at pic k12, and just under three weeks out from the draft, we have seen rumors and speculation of the team drafting Rayan Rupert, to G-League Ignite forward Leonard Miller, to promising Bilal Coulibaly, and everyone in between. Recent rounds of mock drafts even ponder if Duke big man Dereck Lively II would be a fit.
Dereck Lively II stands 7’1, at 230 pounds, with a 7’7 wingspan at age 19. At Duke, Lively II played in 34 games and 27 starts while averaging five points, five rebounds, an assist, and two blocks per game. All of that is to the tune of 65 percent from the floor, 15 percent from deep, and 60 percent at the charity stripe. While Lively II did not shoot the ball well at Duke, he did stroke it from beyond the arc in High School and at his pre-draft pro-day.
At Duke, Dereck Lively II was incredible in Pick-and-Roll action, cutting to the basket, and presented a significant threat in the dunker spot due to his elite finishing ability. Lively II shot 77 percent at the rim, good enough for the 98th percentile. The Blue Devil also thrived in transition to the tune of the 93rd percentile. Lively II also dominated in the half-court (96th percentile), 70th percentile in After Timeout plays, and 96th percentile in the half-court.
On the defensive end, Lively was a dominant rim-protector, holding opponents to 39 percent at the cup, placing him in the 83rd percentile. On overall defense, Lively II was in the 52nd percentile at Duke. As if the question for traditional bigs nowadays is, can he stay on the floor against versatile lineups? Lively II was sometimes exposed in the pick-and-roll and did not flash elite traits on the perimeter on that end of the floor. However, his length and athletic ability give hope that the teenager can eventually develop that part of his game.
The glaring weakness of his offensive game comes from his lack of creation ability, refusing to take a dribble at Duke, and he also did not gobble up rebounds on either end of the floor for his size. Of course, his 15 percent shooting from beyond the arc is tough to swallow, but he did shoot the ball well in High School and at his pro day. Again, though, I struggle to buy into his shooting tough, especially when you factor in his 60 percent shooting at the free throw line. Teams look for prospects to hit that 70 percent mark to project to be perimeter shooters at the next level.
It is also rare for a traditional big man, especially one not selected in the top five, to make a massive impact right out of the gate. Historically, big men take longer to adjust to the league than most other positions. So as many look at Lively II as this rebounding, shot-blocking, immediate impact player with shooting upside, there is a shot only one of those traits translates to the NBA (his shot-blocking can not be denied).
Then, when you look at this from an Oklahoma City Thunder-specific lens, the organization views Chet Holmgren as a center. It is tough to envision Lively II as a power forward, so the pairing is a bit messy. Do you want to grab a backup traditional big with the 12th pick in the draft? There are more accessible, less expensive ways to grab a rim-running big that many fans desire.
That is what makes Dereck Lively II so tough to evaluate. Is he a good player? For sure! However, at pick 12, it is a bit of a tough sell. Primarily based on what OKC has valued recently, though that can change at any moment.