Bulls Considered ‘No-Brainer’ Landing Spot for All-Conference Defensive Prospect

Chicago Bulls

Getty E.J. Liddell #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes celebrates after dunking the ball

The Chicago Bulls could find a ready-made prospect in Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell with the 18th-overall pick in the NBA Draft. A lot of fuss has been made over what the Bulls might do in free agency. But the NBA Draft Combine begins on May 16 while the NBA Draft Lottery is on May 17.

The draft will take place on June 23 – eight days before the free agency moratorium begins.

This is the first time in a while that the combine is not the biggest story in Chicago basketball with Zach LaVine’s decision looming large.

But the Bulls have also been open about their intentions with their 18th-overall selection. Bulls vice president of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said whether or not they keep whomever they select at that spot will largely depend on who is available to them.

If that player is Liddell as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor mocked, Karnisovas could be very happy.

Liddell to Chicago Offers Fit and Value

O’Connor comes from the standpoint of the Bulls, as a playoff team, going for an older prospect capable of contributing right out of the gate. Liddell spent three seasons in Columbus and will turn 22 on December 18.

He averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and 2.5 assists while shooting 49% overall, 37.4% from three-point range, and 76.5% from the free-throw line.

“This just feels like a no-brainer selection…And we’re seeing, with the Celtics in the East Semis right now against the Bucks…if you have any chance of getting through Giannis [Antetokounmpo] you need to have long, tough, hard-nosed wing defenders like Grant Williams. Like Al Horford.”

Liddell is between Horford and Williams in height at 6-foot-7 – the same as Patrick Williams who started at power forward when the team is fully healthy. But Liddell is listed at 240 pounds and is a more powerful player.

Antetokounmpo had his way with the Bulls in the first round averaging 28.6 points on 62.5% true shooting with 13.4 boards and 6.2 assists. He increased his scoring to 35.3 PPG through six games in the second round versus Boston.

To O’Connor’s point, however, his true shooting is down to 52.8%.

Vs the Bulls’ Field

Liddell certainly offers a skillset the Bulls do not currently have on the roster with his combination of size and athleticism. He was also very productive as this profile from the Basketball News staff broke down.

Although he is a bit undersized for the position, the Buckeyes often use Liddell as a 4/5 in their lineups. He is physical and versatile on both ends of the floor, scoring both inside and out…Liddell filled up the box score and played with great effort and toughness.

That last part about toughness is key for the Bulls heading into next season. But are they comfortable relying on a rookie, albeit an older one, for that?

There are questions about his comfort on the perimeter. But he did attempt 3.8 triples per game as a junior and averaged 19.3 points and 8.0 boards while shooting 36.4% from downtown in the Big 10 and NCAA Tournaments.

Liddell also averaged 2.6 blocks last season and substantially improved his production every year.

We have seen the Bulls considered a fit for Auburn center, Walker Kessler. But Liddell’s positional versatility could make him a better choice considering the success of small ball in these playoffs.

On the Margins

Liddell, a Chicago-area native, could be a cost-effective solution to a few of the Bulls’ problem areas if he is drafted and kept. That would fit nicely with Karnisovas’ plan of improving on the margins and maintaining the continuity seen in the remaining playoff teams.

Karnisovas also said the front office has proven to be aggressive and will look at everything this offseason.

What makes him attractive for the Bulls could also entice another team, though, which could lead to teams calling if he is on the board when the Bulls come on the clock. That means him being available at pick No. 18 could be a win in several different ways.

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