Why the Warriors Should Draft Dereck Lively II


If there's anything that the 2023 NBA postseason showed the Warriors, it's that they are in desperate need of size. The James Wiseman experiment unfortunately didn't work out, and simply put, Kevon Looney is just too small to compete with the likes of dominant Western Conference bigs such as Jokic, Davis, KAT, and maybe French sensation Victor Wembanyama. It's also quite unfair for all of the burden of guarding opposing bigs to be put on Draymond Green and Kevon Looney. With the Warriors' highly limited cap space and honestly just a pretty weak pool of free-agent big men this summer, it's unlikely the Warriors can get any big that can contribute to what the Warriors need: a defensive interior presence. Thankfully, the 2023 NBA draft is extremely deep and loaded with star talent, meaning players that would normally go in the lottery could potentially fall to the Warriors, sitting at the 19th pick. Though all of the big-man hype is understandably going to Victor Wembanyama, there is another young, lanky, and athletic big that could fly under the radar and drop right into the Warriors' laps. His name is Dereck Lively II. 

Dereck Lively II is a freshman center from Duke University, standing at 7'1 with a 7'7 wingspan. He was formerly the number 1 overall recruit in the class of 2022, according to ESPN's Top 100 rankings. With high expectations coming into college as the top recruit in the nation, his scoring, rebounding, and assist averages were quite underwhelming, as he averaged just 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists a game throughout the year. However, the Warriors should not just blindly look at those averages, as they know, and the world knows, that they have enough scoring and offensive firepower; what they lack and desperately need is beyond the box score. Some may also argue that drafting Dereck Lively would be the James Wiseman experiment all over again, as they were ironically both the top recruits in their respective class as lanky, 7-foot bigs. To that, I say no, as Dereck Lively actually has a full year of collegiate experience and tape, and it's clear that he has definable, translatable traits that could make him an instant impact on the Warriors. Let's dive into some of the pros and cons of Dereck Lively II. 

The Pros

Easily the biggest factor that makes Dereck Lively so appealing to the Warriors is his size and length. However, unlike James Wiseman, Dereck Lively has proven to be a great rim protector, with some of his defensive numbers comparable to that of past college basketball defensive legends. In terms of the basic defensive statistics for Lively, they're great, as he averaged 2.4 blocks a game throughout the year, which is even more impressive considering that he dealt with calf injuries and very limited minutes to start off the season. His timing and feel for the game on the defensive end are simply spectacular, with a block percentage of 12.8%. He's also great at staying vertical and not swinging his arms, which was something that Wiseman seemed to struggle with a lot. The block averages and percentages are great, and he passes the eye test in terms of defensive awareness, positioning, and IQ; however, the one major indicator of Lively being a great interior presence is the defensive box plus-minus, which, in simple terms, is basically how many points are allowed with the player on the floor compared to the player off the floor, per 100 possessions. Like regular plus-minus stats, higher numbers are better, and in Dereck Lively's case, his defensive box plus-minus was +6.8, which was the best across the NCAA this past season and the 9th best for any freshmen throughout NCAA history. This means that his defensive impact goes far beyond simple blocks; rather, he's able to heavily contest and alter shots, effectively guard the pick-and-roll, and even go out on the perimeter and lock down guards on a somewhat consistent basis at the collegiate level. Obviously, the Warriors wouldn't be drafting Lively for him to go out on the perimeter, but from all the indicators from this past college season, he will, at worst, be a great interior defensive presence at the NBA level. The best case scenario for Lively and the Warriors would be a role similar to that of Walker Kessler, who was a ROY finalist, averaged 1,9 blocks in the NBA as a rookie, and was able to switch onto guards and effectively slow them down, boosting his advanced stats numbers. Though Lively is just a freshman, his floor is incredibly safe and fits exactly what the Warriors need: a big man who's a great interior defender. 

The Cons

Most of the cons for Lively come on the offensive end, but honestly, the Warriors really don't need any more offensive firepower anyways. With his sheer size and length alone, and in the Warriors system that makes defenders constantly miscommunicate due to the Warriors' outside shooting, Lively is bound to be effective simply as a roller and lob threat. However, his skills as a creator are subpar, even when he is in the post. It's clear he doesn't really have that much of an offensive bag, let alone a solid, repeatable post-move. His touch is also not on the NBA level yet, and his only real, consistent way of scoring is through simple dunks. However, despite his offensive inabilities as a sole creator, he's shown flashes of playmaking off the pick-and-roll, finding the open shooter on the perimeter. Also, in his most recent draft workouts and pro day, Lively has also shown a shooting stroke that was similar to his days in high school, which certainly impressed scouts. Again, the Warriors will certainly not ask him to be any sort of offensive generator if they were to draft him, and considering the fact that he's only a freshman, Lively definitely has plenty of time to grow into his own on the offensive side of the ball. Just know this: the Warriors will be getting a bonafide defensive stud if they were to draft him, allowing him to be an instant impact player. 

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