If the Bulls Do Hold Onto the 18th Pick Tonight, E.J. Liddell Could Be a Nice Fit

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If the Bulls Do Hold Onto the 18th Pick Tonight, E.J. Liddell Could Be a Nice Fit

Chicago Bulls

E.J. Liddell said on Wednesday afternoon that he loved watching the Chicago Bulls growing up, with the Bulls being the only team close to his hometown of Belleville, Illinois. Liddell admitted that he was also a Lakers fan growing up, thanks to the late Kobe Bryant.

Despite his basketball fandom, Liddell told Danny Parkins and Matt Spiegel that he thought he would be a football player since everyone in his family played football. It wasn’t until seventh grade that Liddell started to slim down and could touch the rim of a basketball hoop. Now, just hours away from the NBA Draft, the Belleville native is about to become an NBA player and probably a first-round pick.

The two-time Mr. Basketball Illinois admits that Illinois hoops fans soured on him when he chose Columbus and the Ohio State University over the Fighting Illini, who recruited him heavily. Liddell also hopes that if the Bulls call his name tonight, Illini fans will begin to forgive him for taking his talents to the rival Big 10 program. Liddell has been frequently mocked to the Bulls who own the No. 18 pick in tonight’s draft, and the six-foot-seven former Buckeye said that he would be “very happy” if he’s drafted by the Bulls.

The Bulls hosted Liddell for a workout this month, and they could certainly use a player like him. At Ohio State, Liddell played center but admits that his role and usage rate would be vastly different at the NBA level. Still, Liddell believes that the NBA is playing a brand of position less basketball these days that will allow him to make an impact right away.

“Honestly, I’m a basketball player,” Liddell told The Scores Afternoon Drive hosts on Wednesday when asked about his potential fit with an NBA team. “Right now, it’s position less basketball. Like I said, Draymond Green (who is six-foot-six) is out there playing the five. But, you really can’t teach heart and effort. I feel like those are things I bring to the table.”

Liddell has been compared to Green. He also says that Green is one of a few players whom he models his game after.

“I take a lot of little things from different players,” Liddell said. “Draymond, the way he passes and facilitates it. Offensively I like watching Paul Millsap. P.J. Tucker on the defensive end. He’s only like 6-4 (he’s six-foot-five, but close), but he guards everyone.”

Liddell also mentioned Celtics forward Grant Williams, a six-foot-six forward who played a key role in the Celtics run to the NBA Finals this season, as a player he facies his game after.

The knock on Liddell’s size has been as frequent as the mock drafts that have the Bulls taking the Ohio State center, but Liddell insists that he’s been working hard the past year since testing the draft waters as a sophomore to meet the style of play that he believes NBA teams will demand of him as a rookie next season.

“I’ve been working on my lateral movements, improving my three-point shot. I know my usage rate isn’t going to be as high as it was in college.”

Liddell says that while he has the skill and talent to thrive in the NBA, his calling card is how hard he plays, and the pride he takes in going out and doing the dirty work that an NBA role player is tasked with.

If you’ve watched any amount of Liddell at Ohio State, you know, that’s a fact. Liddell hustles hard. He sprints back on defense every play and often finds himself in a position to make a block on the chase-down.

The former Buckeye averaged 2.6 blocks and 7.9 rebounds per contest to go along with 19.4 points while shooting just a tick under 50 percent from the floor for Ohio State this past season.

Liddell has worked hard to improve his three-point shot, a necessity for an undersized forward at the next level. As a freshman, he shot 19.2 percent from deep and improved to 33.8 percent in his sophomore season in an expanded role with the Buckeyes. After testing the draft waters last year, Liddell returned to work from the perimeter and bumped his three-point shooting percentage up to 37.4 percent this year.

If the Bulls do hold onto the 18th pick tonight, Liddell seems like a good fit for this team, providing them with depth in the front court and a hard-working player who can do the dirty work and space the floor a little bit.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is a Staff Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.