With multiple picks in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the San Antonio Spurs should take a close look at Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell. Liddell had an excellent season for the Ohio State Buckeyes, averaging 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.6 blocks, and even shooting 37.8% from three.
Despite that impressive stat line, he doesn't project to be a star in the NBA (at least not in the traditional sense), but he certainly has the skill to be a high-level rotation player. Offensively, Liddell is a versatile scorer who can get buckets in several ways.
One way is in the post, where he often uses turnaround jumpers but can also score by facing up and attacking off the dribble or getting deep post position, knocking his defender off-balance, and getting easy layups.
Liddell has also improved as a shooter, particularly from beyond the arc, and used that to become a deadly pick-and-pop threat from three. That addition to his bag makes him more difficult to guard, and he relentlessly attacked late closeouts, allowing him to get into the midrange and knockdown pull-up jumpers or get to the basket. Liddell can even pass, which only adds to his value as an offensive player.
What E.J. Liddell offers defensively
Defensively, he's a good shot-blocker and is able to rotate over to the weak side and challenge shots at the rim. He's also proven capable of defending bigger players in the post and can even guard away from the basket as well. That makes Liddell very switchable on that end of the floor and seemingly ready-made for the NBA, with that skillset being especially valuable.
One concern about Liddell is his lack of size at just 6'7 in shoes, meaning that he's likely the same height as Keldon Johnson and Joshua Primo without sneakers on. That's incredibly small for a power forward, but he does have a 7'0 wingspan, and at 240, he's about 60 pounds heavier than Primo, allowing him to play bigger than his height.
That should allow him to defend most power forwards, many of whom don't usually post up, which negates much of the height difference. Offensively, he's developed a mean pump fake to get his shot off at the basket against taller players, so his height shouldn't be too much of an issue.
Another concern is his age. He'll turn 22 in December of this year, and older prospects generally don't improve much after entering the NBA. Still, even if that were the case with Liddell, he'd still make for a good player, especially on the Spurs.
Additionally, if they were to pick him, he could be an immediate help at power forward, particularly if Lonnie Walker leaves in free agency, which would open up a rotation spot for Liddell. That role could quickly grow given his ability to score in a variety of ways, as well as his defensive versatility, thus making him the ideal fit.
Ultimately, Liddell is a versatile offensive and defensive player who could immediately help an NBA team. Considering San Antonio has multiple first-round picks, he'd be a great selection for the Spurs if available in the 20s.