Draft Notebook: E.J. Liddell, Jalen Williams, and Ochai Agbaji

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Draft Notebook: E.J. Liddell, Jalen Williams, and Ochai Agbaji

Chicago Bulls

After earning their first winning campaign since 2017, the Chicago Bulls are in line to select with the No. 18 pick in the NBA Draft on June 23rd.

With that in mind, I thought I would share my draft notes on several players who could be available in the late teens on draft night. Keep an eye out for a few of these posts as we inch closer to the big night!

EJ Liddell

Position: Forward
Age: 21
Height: 6’7″
School: Ohio State

The Good

  • Hustles his booty off. Liddell is a tough and hard-nosed player who loves contact and stays locked in. We particularly see this show up on the defensive end, as he sprints back in transition and has a knack for the chase-down block.
  • A human fly swatter. Liddell might only stand a six-foot-seven, but he possesses a wingspan that sits just a smidge under seven feet. He averaged 2.6 blocks per game with tremendous defensive timing. He displays an ability to make a lot of ground in a flash. He’ll be a rock-solid help defender at the next level.
  • Despite a lack of eye-popping athleticism, Liddell does a really nice job staying in front of backcourt players. He looks shockingly comfortable guarding positions 1-4, and he should be able to use his stocky 240lbs frame to hang with players at the 5 in small-ball situations (which is a skill set I can see being particularly attractive to the Bulls). The dude is really freakin’ strong.
  • Offensively, he showed great improvement in his junior season behind the arc (37.4% on 3.8 3PAs per game). It’s fair to say he has real upside as a pick-and-pop and catch-and-shoot threat.
  • An older player who (like Ayo Dosunmu) has a developed feel for the game. He should be able to immediately contribute on the defensive end while limiting mistakes on offense. Likely a “dirty work” kind of guy.

The Not So Good

  • I don’t know where Liddell’s offense is going to come from consistently at the next level. While he averaged 19.6 points per game for the Buckeyes, a lot of that came from his ability to bump bodies in the post and finish off-balance shots. I have questions about whether he’ll find this much success against NBA size.
  • Relatedly, Liddell doesn’t possess the finest handles. Not only can he play sloppy, but he can’t explode toward the rim with the ball in his hands. Average defenders shouldn’t have that hard of a time staying in front of him (however, he should be able to physically overpower/backdown small defenders).
  • His shooting motion is ok. I’d like to see him not bring the ball down as low when getting into his jumper. Starting his shooting motion higher could help him get off cleaner looks.

The Comparison

When Liddell sat down with ESPN’s Mike Schmitz, he said he watches a lot of PJ Tucker, PJ Washington, Grant Williams, and Draymond Green. I think it’s pretty easy to see where Liddell reflects each of those players, particularly in their shared ability to play much bigger than their frame suggests. Washington and Williams have particularly flashed an ability to get streaky from long-range, which Liddell has shown in flashes.

I would also throw a player like Thaddeus Young into this conversation. Like Young, Liddell has the combination of length and touch to become a sneaky shotmaker in the post, and he also has the IQ to help facilitate from the interior. High-floor talent, in my opinion.

Jalen Williams

Position: Forward
Age: 21
Height: 6’6″
School: Santa Clara

The Good

  • Super intriguing upside as a secondary ball-handler. Set the table for his teammates at the college level and demonstrated a steady hand in the pick-and-roll. Could see him as a second-unit generator of offense.
  • One of the better decision-makers in the NBA draft. Not only a savvy passer but a highly intelligent player whose feel for the game helps with shot selection and playmaking.
  • Great positional size and length. Stands 6’6″ with an elite 7’2″ winspan. Theoretically, he should be able to guard multiple positions, which should be particularly eye-catching for a Bulls front office that loves positional versatility.
  • Flashed a significantly improved 3-point stroke in his junior season at Santa Clara. He shot 39.6 percent from deep, showing promise as a reliable catch-and-shoot threat.
  • Overall, seems like an extremely unselfish player with “jack-of-all-trades” potential. Great frame to play above-average defense and high IQ to make the right play on offense. There is a reason he’s risen up draft boards in the pre-draft process.

The Not So Good

  • Williams is the epitome of a late-bloomer, and one has to wonder if that could slip into his development at the next level.
  • Played at a mid-major, so as impressive as his scoring efficiency has been, I have real questions about how big of a wake-up call NBA size/athleticism could be.
  • Not the most explosive athlete. His build might be NBA-ready – and I give him props for good defensive footwork – but I worry about his ability to stay in front of smaller and quicker guards. Lateral quickness isn’t great.

The Comparison

Mikal Bridges feels like a decent comparison for what Williams could become. I don’t necessarily think he’ll ever reach the peak of Bridges’ defensive powers, but both are players who came into the NBA with elite positional size and a developed basketball IQ. Bridges has also demonstrated an ability to create some offense on his own despite not being the most athletic player on the floor.

Speaking of Villanova Wildcast, I also see some of Saddiq Bey in Williams’ game.

Ochai Agbaji

Position: Forward
Age: 22
Height: 6’6″
School: Kansas

The Good

  • A four-year starter for one of the best programs in college basketball (leading his team to a national championship this past season). Among those projected to be a top-20 pick, Agbaji might be the most NBA-ready.
  • Bulls need floor spacing, and Agbaji would immediately become one of their better options. He is a deadly shooter from behind the arc (40.7% this season on 6.4 3PAs per game) and has a knack for sliding into the open spot. Shooting stroke is crisp, and he gets into his motion quickly.
  • Shown enough to indicate he’ll be at least an average NBA defender. He has a nice strong build. Sticks with his man and uses his length to force some off-balance shots at the rim.
  • Love his movement and activity off the ball. Constantly in motion and has legitimate potential to be a sneakily consistent lob threat.
  • When he does get a full head of steam off cuts or in transition, he does a really great job finishing strong at the rim.

The Not So Good

  • Agbaji’s greatest flaw is his lack of ball-handling and self-creation. He isn’t going to be the secondary ball-handling type the Bulls’ front office might prefer. Only averaged 1.6 assists per game in his Kansas career.
  • I worry a little about his score-first mentality. While it was what he was asked to do in college, he’ll need to be more of a ball-mover at the next level.
  • How high is Agbaji’s ceiling without the offensive playmaking upside? He seems to heavily fit into the 3-and-D mold, which means he could disappear at times during the game.

The Comparison

I find Agbaji really hard to label. I like a lot of what his game has to offer, but there are some big question marks about how much more he can improve. Maybe a poor man’s Keldon Johnson works as a comparison right now? They share a similar build and (hopefully) a similar ability to let it fly from long range. Both also might not be the savviest creators, but they score in bunches and typically always hustle.



Author: Elias Schuster

Elias Schuster is the Lead Bulls Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Schuster_Elias.