The second round of the NBA draft provides teams with significant flexibility and an array of options, including the possibility of trading down or completely out of the late-night portion of the event. However, when New Orleans went on the clock in Round 2 on Thursday and Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell was still available at pick No. 41, the Pelicans seized the opportunity to add a player who had been expected to be picked much earlier by seemingly every draft prognosticator.
After three college seasons with the Buckeyes and compiling averages of 19.4 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 2021-22, Liddell was projected to go in the 20s in numerous pre-draft mocks. For example, the 21-year-old was ranked 20th or 21st overall on the big boards of ESPN, Sporting News, Bleacher Report and The Ringer. NBADraft.net had Liddell a bit lower at 32, but that was still nearly 10 spots above where the Pelicans were able to acquire him.
Just prior to Thursday’s draft, ESPN.com’s final mock update predicted Liddell would be chosen at No. 24 by Milwaukee. Writer Jonathan Givony noted of his projection that “adding an All-American big man such as Liddell could be attractive. Liddell is a solid rim protector who can switch on the perimeter and improved his shooting significantly as a junior, giving him a high floor as a prospect. Liddell's productivity and toughness make him a solid option at this stage of the draft.”