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2022 NBA Draft Prospect Profiles: E.J. Liddell

The Ohio State junior checks all the boxes for late first round value

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NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament Second Round-Ohio State vs Villanova Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Over the next week, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2022 draft. We’ll primarily look at who they may pick with the 22nd and 29th pick, or with a pick from a possible trade-up in the draft.

E.J. Liddell, Forward, Ohio St.

  • 6’7”, 6’11.75” Wingspan, 243 Pounds, 21 years old from Belleville, Illinois
  • JUNIOR YEAR AT OHIO STATE: In 32 Games (32 starts, 33.2 minutes per game), 19.4 points per game on 49% shooting (37.4% from 3, 76.5% on free throws), 2.5 assists per game, 7.9 rebounds per game, 0.6 steals per game, 2.6 blocks per game, 2.4 turnovers per game
  • 3-YEAR CAREER AT OHIO STATE: In 92 Games (61 starts, 26.4 minutes per game), 14.1 points per game on 48% shooting (34.1% from 3, 74.9% on free throws), 1.6 assists per game, 6.1 rebounds per game, 0.5 steals per game, 1.6 blocks per game, 1.7 turnovers per game
  • AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: 2021-22 First Team All-Big Ten, 2021-22 Big Ten All-Defense, 2021 All-Big Ten Tournament, 2020-21 First Team All-Big Ten
  • 3 STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): Blocks (2.8 per 36), PER (30.5), Projected NBA 3-point % (35.4%)
  • 3 STATS TO IMPROVE (per Tankathon): Steals (0.6 per 36), Defensive Rating (100), Draft Age (21.5)
  • CURRENT BIG BOARD POSITION: 25 (Tankathon), 21 (The Ringer), 20 (ESPN), 16 (CBS Sports), 16 (Bleacher Report)

Not many, if any players improved their stock more from last year than E.J. Liddell.

He tested the draft waters last year, but was given sound advice that he needed to improve in a few areas. He did just that and now is looking like a lock for the first round of the draft. Not only that, but his stock continues to rise after a solid showing during the draft combine.

Liddell is a tad on the smaller side when it comes to a power forward, but with the direction the NBA is going, he will fit just fine.

If you look at the Grizzlies’ recent draft history, it seems like E.J. Liddell may be the type of guy they will look to take in the first round. But, it’s also possible he may be gone by the time the Memphis Grizzlies pick at 22.

Let’s take a closer look at E.J. Liddell and see what type of player he is.

Areas of Strength

His biggest strength in my eyes, is his continued improvement. Last year, Liddell was considered a draft pick, but he wasn’t happy with just that. He viewed it as an opportunity to get better. He knew that because of his size, he needed to improve his outside shot. Liddell improved his 3-point percentage every season.

  • 19.2% – 2019/20
  • 33.8% – 2020/21
  • 37.4% – 2021/22

The percentages got better as he took more shots from long range. His field goal attempts per game was the same amount in the past two seasons, but his percentage improved, he averaged more points per game, and his three-point numbers were better.

Another area of strength is how he can adapt on defense. A man at his size shouldn’t be able to guard the players he is able to. Sure, he may have trouble with true centers, as well as smaller, quicker point guards; but he’s a potential matchup problem for anyone in between.

He’s big enough and quick enough that he is able to stay in front of most guys who try to drive on him, or at least create enough contact to where it’s uncomfortable as they drive to the lane. It’s also pretty impressive that a guy at his size averaged nearly 2.5 blocks per game. He was getting blocks all type of ways — straight up, as a chase down block, and on help defense.

Areas to Improve

Too many of Liddell’s possessions ended with either a bad shot or a turnover. While he was asked to do a lot for the Buckeyes in the last season, there were times where he did force it too much. It seemed as if he was dead set on what he wanted to do on the possession and would settle for the shot given to him instead of passing it out. He could also cut down on offensive fouls by not using his body as much to create space and learning to know when to pump the brakes when he drives to the lane with a head of steam.

Develop an identity. In doing research on Liddell, I’ve noticed he does a lot of good things well, but if he could improve a little bit more in a few areas, he could find more minutes in the NBA. There is a small possibility that with his size, Liddell could develop the role of a tweener and not find his way into a rotation. To me, he’s too talented for that, and the two areas that he could continue to improve in to find a rotation spot are his three-point shooting and defense. Teams always need shooting, and Liddell does have the potential to be a guy that can guard the 1-4 spots depending on the opponent’s lineup.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Fit with the Grizzlies

I’d love for the Grizzlies to be fortunate enough to draft Liddell. I feel it comes down to what their plan is for the backup point guard role. If the Grizzlies plan (hope) to re-sign Tyus, I think E.J. is more in play. If they think Tyus is gone, I wouldn’t be surprised if they use their first pick on a point guard. I don’t think Liddell is there for the Grizzlies second pick at 29.

Liddell is a guy that would continue the Grizzlies history of buying into guys that spent more than one or two years in college. The Grizzlies’ recent track history is pretty good on those guys, such as Brandon Clarke and Desmond Bane.

As I mentioned in my Minott profile, the Grizzlies are in a unique position where they don’t have to hit a home run on their draft pick and can be patient. Liddell, though, I feel could contribute immediately, while parts of his game continue to develop. If you ask me, I think Liddell would be a perfect fit with these young Grizz.

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