3 Favorite center prospects in the 2023 NBA Draft for the OKC Thunder

Dereck Lively II #1 of the Duke Blue Devils (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Dereck Lively II #1 of the Duke Blue Devils (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images) /
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OKC Thunder
Dereck Lively II #1 of the Duke Blue Devils (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder have been linked to Duke big man Dereck Lively II at pick 12, which gives mixed reviews.

With the 12th pick, the Oklahoma City Thunder have been tied to Dereck Lively, Kobe Bufkin, Bilal Coulibaly, Leonard Miller, and everyone else in the draft. It is smokescreen season! Though behind Victor Wembanyama, Dereck Lively is the best big man on the board.

Lively II stands 7’1 with a 7’7 wingspan. The 19-year-old averaged five points, as many rebounds, and two blocks per game while at Duke. The 230-pounder was not exactly a rebounding machine in college, but he still has potential on the glass.

The real appeal to Lively II is what he did not show in college. Back in his high school days, the big man was able to shoot from beyond the arc. While that disappeared in college, throughout the pre-draft process Lively II has displayed that shooting touch again in workouts. If Lively II can add floor-spacing ability, his ability to impact the game changes.

His ability to finish as a cutter and as a roll man in the pick-and-roll has to intrigue teams, as he turned in 1.525 points per possession on rolls (97th percentile) and 1.237 points per possession when cutting.

The downside to Lively II is despite his size. He is not the rebounding machine OKC fans crave; he is limited in his positional versatility (can he play the four alongside Chet? Or vice versa?). It will provide a fun wrinkle in Mark Daigneault’s back pocket to put two bigs on the floor together that thrive at protecting the rim.

While the OKC Thunder have signaled that Chet Holmgren is going to be their starting center moving forward, even going as far as to say they will not be predictive for what this core needs (having not seen them play a single game together, especially), there is at least something appealing about having the option to roll out true bigs on a team that lacks size.

Ultimately, there will be more value on the board in the top-12 than Lively II offers.