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The Mavericks should start Dereck Lively

The lottery pick should be the guy from day one

NBA: NBA Draft Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

With the rumors swirling about Dallas’ upcoming offseason, much of the focus is on the center position. Deandre Ayton has been the big name associated with the Mavericks in rumors, but past a blockbuster trade, the Mavericks’ starting spot candidates are not ideal. If the Mavericks can’t strike up a deal and still have Richaun Holmes and JaVale McGee (who Dallas already has under contract), on the roster next season, Dallas is better off throwing their lottery pick into the fire and hoping that he doesn’t turn to ash.

The alternatives are not great

In the case of Ayton, getting him would require the loss of Tim Hardaway Jr. Along with Ayton’s huge contract, making a large effort for a guy who has been wildly disappointing in the playoffs is not a smart route after drafting someone at the same position. Ayton shined during the Suns 2021 Finals run, but has been benched for Bismack Biyombo and Jock Landale in the 2022 and 2023 playoffs, respectively. As for the other guys, they are just not good enough for Dallas to commit any valuable minutes to. Holmes did not get much play in Sacramento last year and McGee was hurtful in his time on the floor for Dallas. It seems unwise to direct a lot of thought into guys with rapidly diminishing returns.

Lively should get lottery pick minutes

Dallas chose Lively at pick 12; at this point, he should play like it. There are questions about his offensive skillset including his screening, but why not throw him straight into the fight and let him figure out the kinks? If they want to use one of the aforementioned players in a veteran bench role that’s fine, but letting Lively play the big minutes and make mistakes will help him grow quickly. From day one he is an upgrade defensively from any center Dallas has had since Tyson Chandler, and on the offensive side playing with Luka Doncic makes the game simple. Screening and rolling can be taught, and short rolling will come with repetition. Playing against guys like Alperen Sengun, Steven Adams, Jonas Valenciunas, and Victor Webanyama in the division will be an invaluable experience.

Upgrades are needed elsewhere

Letting Lively run from day one will allow Dallas to reassign their priorities elsewhere, which will ultimately help the roster more. They still need wing upgrades, and they are better off allocating whatever assets they have to that department. Maybe Dallas will be a little weak at the center position while Lively develops, but they have won while hiding Dwight Powell for years. Once Lively gets up to speed they’re going to be glad they got another wing instead of another center.