Why Milwaukee Bucks fans are rightfully intrigued by E.J. Liddell

COLUMBUS, OHIO - FEBRUARY 19 (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OHIO - FEBRUARY 19 (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images) /

The Milwaukee Bucks hold the 24th overall selection in the 2022 NBA Draft, and it goes without saying that they desperately need to nail the pick.

This is the first time since 2018 that the Bucks will have their own first round pick, and they have a legitimate shot to add a talented young piece while patching up some of their current roster flaws. When it comes to who Milwaukee should select, the answer often varies from fan to fan. Many are infatuated with the idea of adding a wing like Dalen Terry, given how badly the team needs depth at the position, while others are intrigued with bringing in a potential long-term answer at center such as Walker Kessler. However, the one player that has seemingly become a fan favorite pick for the Bucks is E.J. Liddell, and he is certainly an interesting prospect leading up to the draft.

Why Milwaukee Bucks fans are rightfully intrigued by E.J. Liddell

Following his incredible junior year at Ohio State, two players that E.J. Liddell has been consistently compared to are P.J. Tucker and Grant Williams. Those two names should be quite familiar for fans of the Milwaukee Bucks, given how they were connected to the franchise over the last two years. Of course, the Bucks swung a trade for P.J. Tucker in 2021 to fortify their defense and add one of the most versatile forwards in the league, and that worked out quite well for them as they went all the way and won the NBA title. After foolishly letting Tucker walk in free agency, the Bucks tried to acquire a similar player in Grant Williams, as The Athletic’s Jared Weiss (subscription required) previously reported that Milwaukee inquired about him at the trade deadline. This offseason, the Bucks need to prioritize adding a piece that can be their next P.J. Tucker or Grant Williams, and the answer could be Liddell.

Those comparisons make sense, given that all three are undersized power forwards, with Tucker standing at 6-foot-5, Williams at 6-foot-6, and Liddell being the tallest of the bunch at 6-foot-7, while they all weigh within 10 pounds of one another. They are similarly built, which could make Liddell the perfect target for the Bucks, given their current predicament regarding their small ball lineups. When the Bucks put Giannis Antetokounmpo and the center position, they become much more lethal, as evidenced throughout their 2021 championship run. However, that concoction can only work like the well-oiled machine it is capable of being when the Bucks have a quality forward alongside Antetokounmpo in the frontcourt. After letting Tucker go in the offseason and failing to trade for Williams, the Bucks did not have this player down the stretch this past year, and it came back to bite them in the postseason.

Milwaukee is at its best when it can be versatile, and a player like Liddell could immediately help improve their roster in that regard. The 6-foot-7 forward can defend a handful of positions at an extremely high level, and he showed off some eye-popping shot-blocking abilities during his final year at Ohio State by averaging 2.6 blocks per contest. Liddell could immediately come in and give the Bucks more help defensively while simultaneously improving their versatility. Who knows how good he could be learning from and playing alongside two of the best defenders in the business in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jrue Holiday. Yet, Liddell is no slouch on the offensive side of the ball either, as he averaged 19.4 points while shooting 37.4 percent from three on 3.8 attempts during his junior year this past season. Scoring like that certainly would not hurt the Bucks either.

In short, the Bucks need to prioritize adding a small ball forward this offseason, and selecting an intriguing prospect like Liddell would satisfy that requirement. While Liddell may not be proven like other players the Bucks could target through free agency or trades, the 21-year-old has potential to be something special in this league, and perhaps starting his career on a title contender could help unearth it rather quickly.

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Liddell seems to be the popular pick for the Milwaukee Bucks fans if he is still on the board at 24, and it will be fascinating to see whether they give him the call on draft night.