Although they began to turn things around in a big way toward the end of the season, Duke basketball didn’t quite go as planned this season. Dereck Lively II and Dariq Whitehead began their freshman campaigns dealing with calf and foot injuries, respectively, and were forced to integrate with the team slower than anticipated. Lively was the first of the two to return to action, however, and began showing scouts why he was touted as a lottery prospect coming into the college basketball season.
After Victor Wembanyama, Lively has a case to be the class’ second-best rim protector, having averaged 2.4 blocks in only about 20 minutes played per game. His length, athleticism, and timing all lend to his elite rim protection that, even on its own, will give him a high floor in the NBA. Similarly, his hyper-efficient scoring around the rim—both as the roller in the pick and roll and as a lob threat in the dunker’s spot—will give him a good offensive foundation to build on.
These attributes by themselves will already have teams interested, but if he proves that he can extend his range to the three-point line as was advertised before the college basketball season, he could be picked even earlier.