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DNHQ Draft Tourney. Dereck Lively II (6) vs Leonard Miller (11); plus open thread
playmaking shot blocker vs young rebounding big
Our Draft Tournament
Yes, we are still having our FOURTH annual DNHQ Draft Tournament, where Dub Nation gets to vote on whom the Warriors should draft via head to head showdowns.
The draft will happen on Jun 22 2023, 5pm.
If the Warriors end up trading the pick, I’ll end the draft tournament early.
Commentary on Lively and Miller
Krysten Peek of Yahoo Sports on Warriors Huddle (2023-05-24):
Okay, so #19. You guys have a good group of guards, right? I think where in terms of like next level of development, because it failed with James Wiseman, would be in the front court, right?
So I'm looking at Dereck Lively, who's 7’ 2”. He went to Duke. He was a freshman there. Didn't do a lot because in the Duke system it doesn't really allow the spacing the same way as the NBA does. So he was just a rim runner and a shot blocker and didn't really showcase his three point jump shot, which he did in fact have in high school. Fun fact, Dereck Lively was also on one of like, the greatest AAU teams I've ever seen. It was Team Final, it was him, it was Jalen Duren who is now with the Detroit Pistons. And Emoni Bates, and it was the three of them and it was like the most incredible AAU basketball I've ever seen. So I really like him there.
And then I really like Leonard Miller from the G-League Ignite. You know, this is another guy who has a year playing under his belt. He's 6’ 10”, 215, kind of that swing 4. Really long. And he is only 19. I think he averaged a double double this season. He's got length, a 7’ 3” wingspan, I think he measured at the combine.
Dereck Lively II | 7-1 center | 19 years old | Duke
Feel for the Game
Great finisher off rolls and cuts. He has soft hands for catching fastballs and the massive wingspan to catch passes above the rim. With bouncy athleticism, he’s a constant lob threat in the half court. Though Duke doesn’t run much pick-and-roll, that’ll be his primary way to contribute at the next level.
He has a knack for playmaking despite lacking a low-post skill set. He can fire lasers to spot-up shooters, and he does a good job of locating cutters. There could be a role for him as a low- to mid-post playmaking hub. If his shot develops, he could even be used in dribble handoffs.
He displays touch near the rim and could eventually develop into a 3-point threat. He’s most comfortable from the corners. He could have untapped potential as a spot-up shooter.
He loves to run the floor in transition to get ahead of the defense.
Mobile rim protector capable of stepping out and hedging, blitzing or switching. Even if he gets beat, he’s able to recover and use his 7-foot-8 wingspan to alter or block the shot from behind. If he masters his fundamentals, he could become a versatile big capable of excelling in any scheme.
Impactful help defender who covers a lot of ground and takes off in a blink for blocks inside.
Plays like a gentle giant at times, not going back up for putbacks following offensive boards. Instead, he just kicks it out. This isn’t inherently a bad thing. Some coaches instruct bigs to do this. But the aggression would be nice to see in a player who came in with such great expectations.
He hasn’t shown the ability or desire to create his own looks, rarely even dribbling the ball. With a borderline-hackable free throw percentage, he could be a liability if he’s not finishing at the basket.
He’s not vacuuming up defensive rebounds like he did in high school, in part because he’s dealing with larger bodies than ever before. He needs to get better at boxing out since he can’t get by on just athleticism anymore. Getting stronger is a priority.
Defensive fundamentals need to improve. He finds himself out of position at times, especially when defending perimeter actions like handoffs. He’d probably be best utilized in a switching scheme early in his career as he continues to learn the intricacies of defending actions.
Brought inconsistent effort at the high school level, but so far at Duke he’s improved, something he’ll need to continue doing to go in the first round.
The Scout: Lively struggled to start the season, but by the end of it, there was not a more impactful defender in college basketball. He’s an elite rim protector who averaged 2.5 blocks per game this past season in 20 minutes. He defends ball screens well and can do so in a variety of different schemes. He can hard hedge and recover, he can drop, and he can play at the level. He’s mobile and runs the court very well. Offensively, he’s extremely limited right now, but Lively has immense tools with a 7-7 wingspan that portends potential to not just be a good defender but a great one.
8. Dereck Lively II, 19, 7-1 Fr. C, Duke
What is the highest you could justify drafting a rim-protecting center who averaged five points a game? This feels about right. Lively’s value is hurt by the fact that he’s a center, not to mention that averaged five points a game. Yes, five.
However, he’s at least the prototype for might be called a “playoff five” as an offensive rim runner who can both protect the rim and guard the perimeter. Lively is 7-1 but has the feet to comfortably defend on the perimeter and showed it on several occasions during Duke’s season. He also has big rim-protection numbers, with a superior block rate to that posted by fellow Duke lottery pick Mark Williams a year earlier — 12.7 percent for Lively, 11.4 percent for Williams.
Lively did this while guarding out on the floor much more ably than Williams too, although it came at a cost: a whopping 8.0 fouls per 100 possessions, compared to 5.1 for Williams.
Additionally, there are flashes of offensive upside. He only made two of his 13 3-point attempts during the season but looked comfortable launching corner 3s before games; this could easily be a point of development in the early part of his career.
Lively has also shown facility as a passer that can give him some added value beyond finishing dunks. Admittedly, some of that comes from a reluctance to shoot — I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a 7-footer kick out more offensive rebounds. Nonetheless, I’m a big believe in bigs who can pass.
Lively comes with other small quibbles. There is no post game at all, and for his size, you’d also like to see more dominance on the glass than he showed as a freshman. All of that pushes him into the late lottery, but of the prospects born in 2004, only Whitmore and Black were more impactful last season.
Defensive Plus-Minus is one kind of a plus-minus metric that measures the difference per 100 possessions in points allowed with a player on the court versus off the court. It is, as all lineup stats are, directly tied to who a player shares the floor with and who their replacement is. There are flaws in its application, though if used responsibly, can be very revealing.
Dereck Lively led the nation in Defensive Box Plus-Minus last year at 6.8. He’s the first freshman to be the top in the country in the metric since Jaren Jackson Jr. did in 2018. In fact, the group of freshmen to achieve such a mark over the last 15 years is basically a group of cannot-fail defenders in the NBA.
Duke finished 14th in the nation in defensive efficiency this season, and while they were a stout defensive team without him, Lively was a large part of the reason for their elite ascension. But his aptitude near the basket is felt in the on-off stats of efficiency and attempts near the rim.
According to Hoop Explorer, teams only shot 50.5% at the rim when Lively was on the floor, compared to 56.4% when he was off it. But he also faced a higher percentage of shots coming at the rim than Young did, signaling Duke’s confidence in funneling the ball toward him. Above 40% of all field goal attempts came at the rim with Lively in the game; that number was closer to 36% with Young in there. That’s a fairly small difference, but the combination of those marks shows Lively’s true value.
He needs to be treated as the elite defensive prospect that he is. Anthony Davis, Nerlens Noel, Chet Holmgren, Jaren Jackson, Larry Sanders, Joel Embiid… those are all some of the best rim protectors and important defenders of the last decade. I really don’t think the top 10 is out of the question for Lively, a return to my preseason evaluation when I had him in that range.
The fascination with Dereck Lively continues to build, especially after his recent showing during his Klutch Pro Day. Lively came into the 2022-23 season as one of the top high school basketball recruits in the country. He was projected to be a lottery pick heading into his freshman year with the Blue Devils.
It took some time for Lively to find his groove this year. After a preseason injury to his calf, Lively had to attempt to make up for lost time. The offensive game has often been teased when it comes to Lively. In Raleigh, the athletic big man was primarily used as a lob threat, despite the idea that Lively could start to sprinkle in a little bit of floor spacing upside. After a sensational second half of the season, Lively finished the year with averages of 5.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, and 2.4 blocks per game in 20.6 minutes.
When you read those stats at first glance, you start to wonder why Lively would be considered “safe.” That’s because I believe there are a number of interesting factors here. This big man class is going to have plenty scratching their heads, especially after the French alien of Victor Wembanyama. Any time a prospect has the lofty expectation of being “the guy” in the high school rankings, it’s a weighted vest to carry around before your freshman year. Lively might not live up to the lofty expectations of being the top recruit in the country. But throughout his freshman year, I believe that evaluators and NBA scouts quickly realized something about Lively.
Maybe he’s just perfect for the type of role he can thrive in at the NBA level.
Lively isn’t going to be this big man talent that you slowly develop and force-feed in the post. But how many of those are even around in the modern NBA?
Instead, he’s going to be a big-bodied center with athleticism that has superior shot-blocking instincts and scary defensive versatility. That alone should put him in the conversation to get the curiosity of plenty of NBA front offices.
6. Dereck Lively
While we are on the subject of Duke bigs— Dereck Lively is huge, mobile, and has immense defensive potential. The one scary point is he only scored 5.2 pts/game and 10.1 points per 40, which is a uniquely low scoring rate for a prospect drafted in round 1, let alone the lottery.
This makes him a tricky proposition— 54 of his 75 FG’s were dunks this year, and when he was not in dunking range he seemed extremely uncomfortable with the ball. So let’s compare him pace adjusted per 40 minutes to other past low scoring big prospects:
Granted, this is a cherrypick. It is mostly pre-draft seasons, except for Okafor, McGee, and Horford who stayed in school and went on to big sophomore breakouts. There is no guarantee Lively would break out if he stays in school for another year.
But the main point is that things are possible. Rudy Gobert is what we are hoping for with Lively, and this is not a perfect comparison since Rudy was playing professionally in France against more difficult competition. But he was almost 2 years older, and did not have an impressive scoring output or nearly the assist:TOV rate that Lively boasts.
There is also the prospect of a bigger and better Horford IF Lively develops his skills at an outlier rate. One minor feature is that he attempted threes this year. He only went 2/13 for Duke, but he also went 11/40 in AAU and there is a sliver of hope that he develops into a capable 3 point shooter in time.
And even though Lively scored low volume, he was highly efficient with an elite assist:TOV rate, indicative of a high basketball IQ that makes his defensive potential that much more tantalizing. It is difficult to think of any past prospects who were huge, mobile, and good passers that did not become good defensively in the NBA.
Fab Melo and Daniel Orton are a couple low scoring late 1st bigs who busted, but they badly pale in comparison to Lively. Orton was massively inefficient and undersized for center at 6’9.5, and Fab Melo was old and terrible and has a case for one of the worst first round picks of all time.
Of course this does not mean Lively necessarily will succeed, as the low scoring is still a scary flag that most of the success cases improved upon before testing the waters. But he definitely has big upside, and it’s difficult to find a truly scary cautionary tale that suggests this flaw makes him likely to fail.
Video to dream about his 3 pt shot:
Leonard Miller, 19, 6-10 PF, G League Ignite
Leaner Paul Millsap
Grew to 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-2 wingspan and a strong, wide frame as a high school upperclassman. He uses his length to sky above opponents for rebounds and poke into passing lanes. He could become a versatile on-ball defender if his fundamentals improve.
Takes long strides on drives to the basket and has a fluid handle using either hand. He’s at his best when attacking a closeout, attentively cutting into the paint, or pushing the ball in transition. Once he’s near the rim, he shows ambidextrous finishing ability, with a preference for going right.
Comfortable midrange shooter. He can take short pull-ups or pivot into contested fadeaways. If he’s ever able to extend his range behind the arc, it’d be a game changer for his upside.
Willing passer who shows his point guard instincts when executing simple plays, whether it’s as a handler out of pick-and-rolls or in post-ups. At the next level, he could find great value as a screener and blend his ability to finish at the basket with his playmaking instincts.
Underwhelming 3-point shooter. He has fine form on catch-and-shoot attempts but has never consistently hit more than 30 percent of his 3s. But he does have average results shooting from the line and from midrange, which suggests he can still improve.
Forces some shots outside the offensive flow after stopping the ball. He’d benefit from learning how to catch and go with greater frequency.
He’s still learning how to play like a big man. He doesn’t rack up as many weakside blocks as his athleticism and reach would suggest he can. That is partially because he’s a bit flaky off the ball.
A bit spacey as a defender. He’s late to closeouts, which especially hurts him since he isn’t the quickest laterally on the perimeter.
While Henderson put up meh numbers for most of the year, Miller was genuinely productive for Ignite, reigniting (sorry) scouts’ interest in him after a rough 2022 Hoop Summit and combine. At this point, Miller seems like a plus option; it’s relatively easy to bet on somebody this productive in the G League (19.8 PER in 38 games) as a 19-year-old eventually turning into something as an NBA player.
Miller’s low left-handed release remains unconvincing and will need continued work; he shot 30.4 percent from 3 and 79.2 percent from the line last season. And the question is, if he can’t stretch the floor, is he good enough to put the ball in his hands. While Miller has a good handle for his size and some slashing ability, he doesn’t project as an on-ball player, and he doesn’t have the hops to be a rim runner.
However, Miller rebounds very well (17.7 percent rebound rate in the G League) and offers some versatility as a defender, where he can competently check threes and fours and likely even masquerade as a small-ball five at times.
And hey, maybe the shot straightens out. At his age, crazier things have happened, and if it does, it will unlock a lot for him given his ball skills for his size.
The Scout: I’m calling my shot on Miller. This is earlier (#12) than just about everyone will have him. But he’s a 6-10 forward who is a terrific, fluid athlete with unique body mechanics that allow him to get defenders off balance as he handles the ball as a driver or in transition. He’s an elite finisher with incredible touch, having made 67 percent of his shots at the rim. In 14 games from Feb. 8 onward, Miller averaged 20 points, 13 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game with one steal and one block. He shot 55.6 percent from the field, 37 percent from 3 and 82 percent from the line. He figured out the G League quickly last season, really his first season of high-level basketball. I think he has real upside long term, and I bet he rises as people see him throughout the process.
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