Knicks Pick Candidate #2: Dereck Lively II, Duke
If the Blazers are looking for a center to replace Nurkic in the lineup, they’ll likely target one who can become a defensive anchor. While it’s hard to find players like that late in the first round, there is a player this year who slowly established that prospect profile over the course of the year.
Dereck Lively II came into the year as one of the more highly-ranked and decorated freshmen in the country. He was expected to be an instant difference-maker at Duke, and although he started at center, it took longer for Lively II to emerge as a defensive menace than many expected.
As the season wore on, Lively II settled into his starting center spot and started to use his prodigious length and timing to anchor the Duke defense. He had 8 blocks against North Carolina, 6 against Oral Roberts, 5 versus Miami in two separate games, and a number of 2- or 3-block games as well.
Given how hard it’s been for the Blazers to build a competent defense, having a prolific shot-blocker like Lively II would inspire fear in the hearts of opposing offenses and cause a positive ripple effect down the rest of the roster by having a back line like this:
Lively II would need some patience on the offensive end as he still is a timid finisher despite his physical gifts. If he can benefit from Lillard’s looks and start to establish himself as a lob threat, Lively II might just be able to turn around his career and look more and more like the surefire star he was in high school.