This three-year starter for the Ohio State Buckeyes has made improvements to his game every year, with the 2021-22 season being his coming-out party. As a member of the first team All-Big Ten and first team All-Defense, EJ Liddell could not only provide scoring around the perimeter and the post, but his defensive skills could be an assets to the Denver Nuggets as well. Who have been above average on the defensive side of the ball over the last two seasons.
Liddell was also one of the first prospects to work out for the Nuggets. At 6’7, 240-pounds, he uses his frame to make as a dominant force that can guard and post up in the paint. That balance of offense and defense shows a player that can bounce around the floor and provide as a two-way specialist.
Liddell was one of the first Nuggets invited and his time with Buckeyes makes it a no brainer to be on Calvin Booth’s draft board.
For Ohio State’s success in recent tournament runs, Liddell has been one of their key players and the one who has made the biggest impact for the Buckeyes. Highlighted by this past season in which he broke out with 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 2.6 blocks per game while averaging 33.2 minutes per contest.
He also shot over 49 percent from the field, and 37.4 percent from beyond the arc, both of which were career-highs. With some improvement over time, these numbers can translate over to the pro level and be high even for NBA standards.
His lack of size may look like a disadvantage, but he makes up for it in high basketball IQ as well as his energy and instincts, which help with creating separation for his teammates.
Liddell even said in a pre draft interview that he feels there is myth to the undersized notion. Pointing out that there are other players in the league thriving against those sort of problems and that he too can be an impact player like those before him.
"“I hear I’m undersized every day. That’s annoying,” Liddell said, “I guess I’m undersized, but you see guys who are in the conference finals. P.J. Tucker, Grant Williams, Draymond Green, and I’m pretty sure they don’t consider themselves undersized in their heads. Truthfully, when it comes to me, I’m a basketball player. I don’t think I’m undersized, I go on the court and do what I’m asked to do. … I’m stronger than most people and you can’t teach heart, truthfully.”"
Improvements with his shooting hesitancy and lateral quickness will come over time, but the best part of his game is along the perimeter. Which is all that you could ask for in a player who’s going to transition off the bench. He can also add in as a 3-and-D type of player who could be a difference maker with what Coach Malone might ask for in certain situations.
Some of the draft comparisons include that of Grant Williams and former Nugget, Paul Millsap. Two-way guys who can spark energy as threats to both score and defend at a high rate. Williams is an example of a forward built with the same size and frame, and he’s already exemplified what he can provide for a team with his contributions for the Boston Celtics in the NBA Finals run this past season.
For a team to get an energy guy is a plus, let alone if you add a player that fits the team’s needs. Just ask the Warriors in taking Jordan Poole, Celtics in Williams, and the Toronto Raptors with OG Anunoby.
Liddell has been quoted as the “steal of the draft”, so, if the Denver Nuggets can acquire his services its a definite plus and a solid start in improving their defense as well as their bench.
His draft projection has him going between the 18 to 22 draft slots, with other teams like the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves in contention. This means that pick No. 21 would need to be used to get him but it would be a steal Nuggets fans would enjoy to see.