Sixers draft profile: Versatile Liddell has NBA-ready tools originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
A scouting report on NBA draft prospect EJ Liddell:
“Tweener” isn’t inherently a terrible label these days.
Still, plenty of skills tend to be necessary for players such as Liddell aiming to thrive in the NBA without an obvious, natural role like lead ball handler, 3-and-D wing or big man. The 21-year-old demonstrated quite a few tools as a junior, posting 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks per game.
He also kept improving his shooting. Over his three college seasons, Liddell’s free throw percentage, three-point percentage and true shooting percentage rose each year. He went 37.4 percent from long distance last season.
It’s safe to expect that Grant Williams will be mentioned in the first 30 seconds after Liddell is drafted.
The comparison is fair enough. Like Williams in 2019, Liddell possess excellent physical strength, used it well in college, and enters the NBA on an upward trajectory. He also looks equipped to guard wings because he slides his feet impressively for someone over 240 pounds and has a 6-11.75 wingspan. As a pro, Liddell is going to understand that staying in front of quick perimeter players is a way to show he’s worthy of minutes, and he’ll be eager for the challenge.
Liddell led the Big Ten in blocks. While he won’t do the same in the NBA, he’s showcased help-side instincts and intelligence that should remain beneficial.
Per NBA.com, Liddell averaged 1.04 points per post-up possession (87th percentile). His usage will likely plummet, but it’s nevertheless nice that he’s so comfortable scoring over and through smaller players. There might be plays where he sprints down the floor, draws a guard on a cross-match, and the right move is to dump the ball into Liddell and let him be powerful in the post.
Personality and character matter a ton for role players. Liddell brings positive energy, grit and self-awareness to the table.
“Clear leader and consistently the hardest worker on the team,” Ohio State head coach Chris Holtmann told CBS Sports’ Matt Norlander. “Never sitting on the sideline, never sitting out a drill. I never got the sense he was worried about getting injured and what that might mean for him. It was just: let me continue to prove myself over and over again, and that’s because that’s who EJ is. “
Will Liddell knock down NBA threes?
It’s hard to give a confident “yes.” He fires line-drive jumpers and wasn’t a great foul shooter, which is generally viewed as a decent indicator of how a player will fare beyond the arc professionally.
Liddell possesses passing talent, but he’ll need to be much less deliberate with his decision-making. Rather than trying to generate mid-range shots for himself or searching for the open man when double teamed in the post, Liddell will be asked to make quick, sharp reads.
Everyone loves the idea of a small-ball five. That’s a difficult job for a prospect Liddell’s height, though. PJ Tucker and Draymond Green are exceptional players. Unless you’re that special defensively or can consistently exploit offensive advantages, teams will still often prefer traditionally sized centers who can protect the rim.
If the Sixers take Liddell, Tyrese Maxey might have some internal competition in one specific area.
“(Liddell’s) smile is the best in college basketball,” Holtmann told Big Ten Network.
More seriously, what should be most appealing about Liddell to the Sixers with the 23rd pick is he seems to have a solid chance of chipping in right away. For the Sixers, that might take the form of backup power forward minutes, opportunities on the wing in shooting-heavy lineups, and minutes alongside James Harden when the team wants to switch almost everything defensively.