Our sibling sites across SB Nation completed their annual NBA Blogger Mock Draft this week. Given the all trade rumors surrounding the team, this very well could be another teams pick come Thursday. But we couldn’t make any trades, and so I took a player at the Bulls slotted #18 selection.
I decided to go with EJ Lidell, the 21 year old Junior from Ohio State.
Nobody knows if the Bulls will be keeping this pick but if they do, they should be targeting someone who can help them contribute from day one. This team’s goal is to still be a playoff contender so choosing a high floor low ceiling player is a more safer option than taking a prospect who will take some years to develop. It also would make a lot of sense for them to target a player who can give them depth/help at their positions of needs, which is a wing or a power forward who can operate out on the periemter. So taking Lidell helps address this issue as the Bulls are currently guard heavy in terms of their rotation. He is an older prospect but showed that he has a solid floor and could slide into Chicago’s rotation immediately.
In his final college season, Liddell has his best season with the Buckeyes. He averaged 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds, and shot 37.4 percent from three. At 6’7, he should be able to play the four for Chicago as someone who can space the floor and give them some offense off the bench. Lidell can also operate in the post, using it as a place where he can back down a smaller/weaker defender and then nail a jumper over them. If the positioning is right, he can spin towards the rim or power through and finish off the glass. He can also knock down jumpers off the dribble as well, flashing some ball handling ability too. His assists improved every year, from 0.5 to 2.5 per game in three years but clearly it’s not an area of strength. The aspect where he will contribute greatly to Chicago’s offense is outside shooting. Liddell’s three-point percentage improved every year as well as his attempt rate, which showed a growing confidence in his own shot.
On a team like Chicago, he will have plenty of opportunities to hit shots from deep either through kick outs or off the pick and roll. Defenses will collapse in on DeMar DeRozan (and hopefully Zach LaVine), leaving Lidell open out on the perimeter. Ultimately, this is where his real value on offense will come. He won’t get too many touches on this Chicago team, especially given how much usage DeRozan gets along with where Lidell will start on the offensive hierarchy. As is the task with the other young players (Ayo Dosunmu and Pat Williams), he will have to take advantage of his chances when he has the ball in his hands to make an impact. Most of time it will come off the catch and shoot or a one dribble and fire situation. There won’t be a lot of chances/plays where he is the main focus of the offensive action and he will have to be effective with the limited touches. If Lidell can knock down three-point shots at an acceptable clip, it would be a huge boost for a Chicago offense that is desperate for shooting help. Anything he adds in terms of shooting off the dribble and finishing near the point will be a bonus.
Defensively, Liddell projects to guard power forwards and could possibly matchup well against the small ball version of those players. His height could provide to be a problem if he’s in a lineup against a team that employs two bigs but he can make up for it somewhat with strength and now getting overpowered. Liddell can also hold his own out on the perimeter as well if he’s switched onto a guard. Being versatile on defense is a huge plus for any prospect and only adds to the value he would have to Chicago. He will also be able to provide some rim protection as he can go up and alter shots at the hoop. Liddell averaged 2.6 blocks per game in his final season at Ohio State so he can swat the ball away when needed to. But against bigger NBA players, he might not find the same success. However, being able to force opposing players to change their shots at the rim is important as well. This is especially important in a Chicago offense that when Lonzo Ball and Alex Caruso are not on the court, struggle to stop drives into the paint. Liddell could provide some defensive cover to the Bulls frontcourt. He will most likely play the four for Chicago but he did play a bit of small ball five for Ohio State last season.
Given the direction Chicago’s team seems to be headed in, drafting a guy who can defend and knock down three’s would be a huge plus. Liddell checks both of those boxes. There is evidence of him in college turning into a guy who can drill shots from deep, which could unlock the Bulls offense even further. Spacing could do some wonders for this team and Lidell could provide that. He doesn’t project to be menace on the defensive end and cause turnovers but seems to be a player who won’t be a net negative when it comes stopping the ball. Liddell seems to be an adequate or slightly positive defender, which will massively help the Bulls too. The rim protection will give Chicago’s defense a boost as well. It isn’t a pick with a lot of upside and at number 18, you aren’t expecting to land guys who can turn into superstars. Given where they are in the draft order as well as their needs before the free agency frenzy begins, Lidell is a smart pick for Chicago.