2023 Mock Draft 2.0: Spurs roll the dice, Hornets win Wembanyama sweepstakes

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. Duke. Dereck Lively II. 10. player. 79. .

I view the Dallas Mavericks similarly to how I viewed the Orlando Magic in last year’s draft in that they’re going to be under immense pressure to get the pick right. With that in mind, though, I think it would really sting for the organization to see Cason Wallace and Taylor Hendricks get selected in consecutive picks right before their chance to walk up to the podium. Defense and off-ball offensive upside should be the team’s top priorities in the draft, but with how things have played out thus far, they’d likely need to pick between one or the other.

There’s one player left on the board that could fulfill both needs, but many will see this as a reach. I am not one of those people, though, so here I have the Mavericks taking Duke big man Dereck Lively at 10th overall. Lively’s shooting is almost entirely theoretical on a functional level, as he was barely able to show any of it during his freshman season at Duke, but it’s Lively’s elite rim protection and rim finishing that would convince Dallas to pull the trigger on him earlier than the consensus suggests.

Perimeter defense and shooting are just as attainable and debatably a bit more reliable when they’re found in the free-agent market as opposed to the draft, particularly when you’re picking toward the back end of the lottery. While guys like Gradey Dick and Jordan Hawkins would certainly add a dose of off-ball shooting to the mix, both have defensive question marks. And while Anthony Black and Kobe Bufkin could each add a good dose of perimeter defense, their fit on offense next to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving is questionable at best. 

Dereck Lively is quite mobile and even a bit switchable for a big man prospect, which should allow the Mavericks some scheme versatility on that end of the floor depending on who else they acquire in the free-agent market. And while his shooting is unproven, his efficiency around the rim makes up for that lack of shooting and then some. Considering Lively will also be upgrading from Tyrese Proctor and Jeremy Roach to Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving as his pick-and-roll partners, he could look like a completely different player on offense next season as a part of this roster.