NBA Draft 2022: What EJ Liddell brings to the New Orleans Pelicans



By John Fanta
FOX Sports College Basketball Writer

It was the most surprising fall of NBA Night project.

Even editorial experts who had their doubts about EJ Liddell couldn’t have seen it coming. The Ohio State product had been widely considered a first-round pick, but he fell all the way to the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 41.

How surprising was that? Liddell never even worked in New Orleans because he and his team didn’t think he would be available that deep in the draft.

“I was very surprised he fell that far,” said a scout when asked about Liddell. “Maybe teams just don’t buy him as a shooter and are always concerned about the lack of real position. He’s tough, defends multiple points and has a really high IQ. There’s no reason why Liddell cannot be a quintessential role player in the NBA.”

The 6-foot-7, 245-pound forward returned to school after testing the waters in 2021 and has been developing at the college level, taking his tally to 19.4 points per game. Liddell went from 33% shooting from beyond the arc in 2021 to over 37% last season, while increasing his rating from the field to over 49%.

Liddell is 21, which may have put some teams off, but he’s developed his shot and gotten stronger in the process to be ready for the transition to the NBA. He took the feedback and made the most of it under Chris Holtmann in Columbus.

So why the fall?

The problem revolves around the uncertainty of what role Liddell can play in the NBA.

EJ Liddell’s Defense Helps Keep Ohio State Alive

EJ Liddell's Defense Helps Keep Ohio State Alive

EJ Liddell had three blocks to keep the Buckeyes alive in the first half of a game last season against Xavier.

He’s a bit of a tweener for his height, and while the idea of ​​him being a small five ball exists, some matchups might still be difficult for him to handle. He has a wingspan of 7 feet and was a willing and capable defender in the Big Ten, handling different matchups and also being able to activate faster guards.

Offensively, if we step outside of his sample size at Ohio State, there’s absolutely reason to believe Liddell can stretch the floor. According to Ken Pomeroy’s ratings, Liddell was the fifth most effective player in college basketball last season. He started being more of a four for the Buckeyes to try to develop his game and make them look different offensively, and actually became a better offensive weapon. He won’t be mistaken for a ball handler or passer, but the Pelicans aren’t recruiting him to do those things.

For a New Orleans team that reached the playoffs for the first time in four years and gave the Phoenix Suns a six-game streak, a key area to address is defense.

“We didn’t think EJ would be here at 41 at all,” Pelicans general manager Trajan Langdon said on draft night. “For us, that was a huge gain. To put up 2.5 blocks per game (last season) at his size is unbelievable. He’s a physical player, a top competitor and a top man. ”

The Pelicans are hoping to get a second-round steal for the second straight year after catching Herbert Jones at No. 35 in 2021. Jones ended up making the All-NBA Rookie Second Team.

“I’ve proven people wrong all my life, so that’s nothing new,” Liddell said on draft night. “I’m going to keep doing this until the day I leave. I’m glad they (New Orleans) took a chance and thank them for the opportunity.”

John Fanta is a national college basketball broadcaster and writer for FOX Sports. He covers the sport in a variety of capacities, from calling games on FS1 to serving as the main host on the BIG EAST digital network to providing commentary on The Field of 68 Media Network. Follow him on Twitter @John_Fanta.


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