E.J. Liddell

Western Notes: Lakers, Nuggets, Rockets, Potter, Liddell, Spurs

Although he didn’t play in the Lakers‘ preseason finale on Friday due to lower back soreness, Anthony Davis will have “no restrictions, whatsoever” when the team’s regular season tips off on Tuesday in Golden State, head coach Darvin Ham said (link via Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times).

Russell Westbrook, who sustained a left hamstring injury in Friday’s game, could “definitely” be available for the opener, according to Ham, but reserve point guard Dennis Schröder likely won’t be, as Turner writes.

Ham said that Schröder’s thumb ligament injury was still being evaluated as of Sunday, and while he’s still considered day-to-day, the ailment may take a little time to heal, tweets Kyle Goon of The Southern California News Group.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Nikola Jokic (wrist) and Jamal Murray (hamstring) are both expected to be available for the Nuggets‘ regular season opener on Wednesday in Utah, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. Barring an unexpected setback, it will be the first time Denver’s two stars have shared the court in a regular season game since April 2021.
  • The Rockets will likely have a handful of players on the injury report to start the season, but head coach Stephen Silas said on Sunday that he’s hopeful rookie Jabari Smith (ankle) will be available for the team’s opener, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Silas added that Garrison Mathews (illness) and Daishen Nix (back) are “close” to being ready too. Jae’Sean Tate (ankle) is the least likely of the group to be available for the opener, Feigen writes.
  • The two-way contracts signed in recent days by Jazz center Micah Potter and Pelicans forward E.J. Liddell both cover two years, Hoops Rumors has confirmed. As our tracker shows, those are the fifth and sixth two-way deals signed this offseason that are for two years instead of one.
  • Noting that the Spurs have had “so many guys over the years” develop their games in the G League, head coach Gregg Popovich said two-way players Dominick Barlow and Jordan Hall will likely spend most of their time in Austin this season, per Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. “He’ll spend some time in the G League and play lots of minutes,” Popovich said, specifically addressing Barlow’s situation. “If he was with us right now, he’s not going to get on the court that much, which doesn’t help him develop.”

E.J. Liddell Signs Two-Way Deal With Pelicans

Rookie forward E.J. Liddell, who tore his right ACL during Summer League this year after being drafted 41st overall out of Ohio State, has signed a two-way contract with the Pelicans, the team announced in a press release.

During a 2021/22 NCAA season in which the 6’7″ forward was named a Third Team All-American, an All-Big Ten First Teamer, and a Big Ten All-Defensive Team honoree, Liddell averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 BPG and 2.5 APG for the Buckeyes.

Though he will most likely not be healthy until at least 2023, the 21-year-old will join Dereon Seabron in filling the team’s pair of two-way player contracts heading into the 2022/23 season. Liddell figures to rehab his ACL injury with the Pelicans and the Birmingham Squadron, New Orleans’ G League affiliate.

Looking to capitalize on a promising postseason berth with a newly healthy Zion Williamson, New Orleans is now fielding a team with 15 players signed to its standard roster, plus a pair of two-way players.

Checking In Again On Unsigned 2022 Draft Picks

We’re about a month-and-a-half removed from the 2022 NBA draft, and – as our tracker shows – 46 of the 58 players selected on June 23 have signed their first NBA contracts.

The 12 unsigned players are as follows:

  1. Toronto Raptors: Christian Koloko, F/C
  2. Detroit Pistons: Gabriele Procida, G
  3. Cleveland Cavaliers: Khalifa Diop, C
  4. New Orleans Pelicans: E.J. Liddell, F
  5. Denver Nuggets: Ismael Kamagate, C
  6. Indiana Pacers: Kendall Brown, F
  7. Minnesota Timberwolves: Matteo Spagnolo, G
  8. New Orleans Pelicans: Karlo Matkovic, F
  9. Washington Wizards: Yannick Nzosa, C
  10. Golden State Warriors: Gui Santos, F
  11. Cleveland Cavaliers: Luke Travers, G/F
  12. Milwaukee Bucks: Hugo Besson, G

Most of these prospects will likely spend the 2022/23 season playing in non-NBA leagues around the world. Procida, Diop, Kamagate, Spagnolo, Matkovic, Nzosa, Santos, Travers, and Besson are all good bets to be draft-and-stash players.

That essentially just leaves three 2022 draftees in limbo: Koloko, Liddell, and Brown.

A player selected within the first five picks of the second round, like Koloko was, virtually always receives a multiyear contract that includes at least a year or two of guaranteed money. It’s hard to imagine that won’t be the case for Koloko, despite the Raptors‘ roster crunch. Toronto already has 13 players on guaranteed contracts, with three players on partial guarantees vying for a regular season spot, so if Koloko signs, it would leave one fewer spot up for grabs.

It’s worth noting that once Koloko officially signs, he’ll be ineligible to be traded for 30 days, so it’s possible the Raptors are keeping their options open in case their Kevin Durant trade talks with the Nets get serious.

Toronto may also be mulling whether to use a portion of its mid-level exception to sign Koloko to a contract that spans three or four years. Taking that route, instead of signing him to a two-year, minimum-salary contract, would ensure he remains under team control for an extra season or two, but would hard-cap the Raptors for the 2022/23 season, since the club already used $6MM of its MLE to sign Otto Porter.

Liddell, meanwhile, suffered an unfortunate break to begin his professional career, tearing his ACL during the Las Vegas Summer League. Before he sustained that injury, the question was probably whether Liddell would receive a standard contract or a two-way deal. Now, the question is whether New Orleans still willing to sign him to a two-way contract or whether the team wants to use that slot on someone who could actually contribute on the court in 2022/23.

If they fill their two-way slots, the Pelicans would probably like to see Liddell sign a G League contract and spend the season rehabbing with the Birmingham Squadron before he signs his first NBA deal a year from now.

As for Brown, it remains to be seen whether he’ll begin the season on the Pacers‘ standard 15-man roster or on a two-way deal. For now, Indiana could go in either direction, but the club could be waiting to see whether there are any more trades to be made before training camp begins — if the Pacers were to complete a deal involving Myles Turner and/or Buddy Hield, the number of players they receive in that trade would have an impact on whether or not there’s room on the standard roster for Brown.

For example, if Indiana send Turner and Hield to the Lakers in exchange for Russell Westbrook and draft assets, then bought out Westbrook, it would open up two extra spots on the projected 15-man roster. In that scenario, signing Brown to a three- or four-year standard contract would make sense.

Western Notes: Liddell, Jordan, Knight, Hardy

Pelicans rookie forward E.J. Liddell has undergone surgery to reconstruct the torn ACL in his right knee, the team announced in a press release. The surgery was performed Monday by Dr. Scott Montgomery and Liddell remains out indefinitely.

Liddell, a second-round pick out of Ohio State, suffered the injury during a Vegas Summer League contest.

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first-round pick. He remains unsigned and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Why did the Nuggets choose DeAndre Jordan as a backup big rather than re-signing DeMarcus Cousins? According to Harrison Wind of TheDNVR.com, there were concerns about Cousins staying healthy for a full season. He battled calf and foot injuries after signing with Denver last season. The Nuggets also wanted more rim protection at backup center and a lob threat for Denver’s current group of guards.
  • Nathan Knight‘s two-year, minimum-salary contract with the Timberwolves includes a $350K partial guarantee in year one and a $380,718 partial guarantee and team option in year two, Hoops Rumors has learned. Knight, who was on a two-way deal with Minnesota last season, signed a standard contract over the weekend. The 6’10” forward appeared in 37 NBA games last season.
  • New Jazz coach Will Hardy has spent a lot of his time this month getting acquainted with the players on the current roster, he told Tony Jones of The Athletic. “The conversations with the players, they have been great,” the former Celtics assistant said. “I’ve talked to all of our guys, and some in person. My expectation is to get to know each other as people before we get to know each other as co-workers. I want us to create and develop trust with each other. We want an environment of honesty with each other.”

Pelicans Rookie Liddell Has Torn ACL

Pelicans second-round pick E.J. Liddell suffered a torn ACL in his right knee during a Vegas Summer League game on Monday, according to a team press release.

An MRI on Monday night confirmed the injury, which occurred during the third quarter of a game against the Hawks. A date for surgery has not yet been determined and he’ll be out indefinitely.

Liddell, who was selected with the No. 41 pick, was unable to put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the floor. Liddell also felt some knee pain in the first half but it subsided and he re-entered.

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first-round pick. He has yet to sign a contract and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available. It’s unclear how New Orleans will handle the contract situation regarding a draft pick who will likely be out most or all of next season.

Pelicans Rookie Liddell Injures Right Knee

Second-round pick E.J. Liddell injured his right knee during the third quarter of the Pelicans’ summer league game against the Hawks on Monday. He’ll have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury, according to Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times Picayune.

Liddell, who was selected with the No. 41 pick, was unable to put any weight on his right leg as he was helped off the floor. The Pelicans are calling it a right knee sprain. Liddell felt some knee pain in the first half but it subsided and he re-entered.

“It’s tough,” summer league coach Jarron Collins said. “We mentioned it the other day with Dyson (Daniels). Injuries are part of the game. You don’t want to see anyone get injured out there. We’ll have more information for you guys tomorrow.”

The former Ohio State forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season and was projected as a first round pick. He has yet to sign a contract and the Pelicans don’t currently have an opening on the 15-man roster, though they have a two-way slot available.

Daniels, the team’s lottery pick, sprained his right ankle on Saturday.

Southwest Notes: Hardy, Liddell, Pelicans, Smith, Eason, Matkovic

The Mavericks gave up second-round picks in 2024 and 2028 to the Kings in order to draft Jaden Hardy at No. 37, but they had the G League Ignite guard rated much higher, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets.

Hardy was ranked No. 19 on Dallas’ draft board, which convinced Mavs — who had dealt their picks in both rounds — to jump back into the draft. He averaged 17.7 PPG, 4.6 RPG and 3.2 APG for the Ignite.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell was projected in mock drafts as a first-rounder and that’s where the Pelicans had him rated, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune tweets. Liddell slipped down to New Orleans’ second-round pick at No. 41. The Buckeyes forward averaged 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG over 33.2 MPG last season.
  • Even though pre-draft rumors swirled regarding a potential trade of their lottery pick, Pelicans GM Trajan Langdon said the team didn’t have serious conversations about moving down from the No. 8 spot, Will Guillory of The Athletic tweets. They chose G League Ignite guard Dyson Daniels.
  • The Rockets were “beyond excited” that Jabari Smith was still on the board at No. 3 when the Magic pivoted to Paolo Banchero at the top spot, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. GM Rafael Stone wouldn’t indicate if he would have chosen Smith with the No. 1 pick but he was thrilled the Auburn forward was there for the taking at No. 3, saying it “made my night.” “He’s just so big and he moves his feet exceptionally well on the perimeter,” Stone said. “I don’t remember anybody at his size in college with his ability to stay in front and contain and contest on the perimeter. He’s also good on the interior.”
  • Stone and his staff were “sweating bullets” that LSU forward Tari Eason would drop to their pick at No. 17, Feigen adds in the same story. The Rockets view Eason as an elite defender. “Tari can play defense, man,” he said. “He plays really hard and he’s a great athlete and he’s really committed on the defensive end. Some defensive players contain. Very few are playmakers. I would definitely consider him a playmaker on defense.”
  • Pelicans draft-and-stash second rounder Karlo Matkovic is close to signing with Slovenia’s Cedevita, according to Antigoni Zachari of EuroHoops.net. The Crotian forward/center, selected 52nd overall, is expected to join New Orleans’ Summer League roster.

Wolves Notes: Connelly, KAT, Draft, Russell, A. Williams

If it were up to president of basketball operations Tim Connelly, Karl-Anthony Towns would remain with the Timberwolves for his entire career. Towns is eligible for a super-max extension this summer after being selected to the All-NBA Third Team.

I hope he’s here forever. I hope we have the type of team success that would allow us to look up and see Karl’s jersey being hung up in the rafters,” Connelly said in a Q&A session with Chris Hine of The Star Tribune. “I reached out to a bunch of these guys, but I don’t want to force relationships. You have to develop those things naturally. So, I’ve heard so many great things about him. I know how great a player he is on the court, but off the court it’s been so consistent, just an unbelievably sweet guy that treats everyone in a really classy manner.

“I think he’s been through so much, so many different faces and different chairs, from the front office to the coaching staff. So I think with continuity with Finchy (head coach Chris Finch), you’re going to see a better version of Karl and he’s already a great player.”

Connelly conceded that the team’s potential first-round pick (19th overall) likely won’t have a significant role on the team next year, but he believes the Wolves can find a good long-term fit with the selection.

We’ll beat up all the different possibilities pretty good. We’re also very content and pretty excited about if we’re going to get a good player at 19,” he said. “It’s going to be hard for any player we draft to have a huge role with the team that just had the success they had. We’re not drafting for June 24, we’re drafting for, hopefully, to add a person that can be a part of sustained success and a person who can grow into a role. I think things are on the table, but we do feel pretty convinced that 19 is going to yield a good player.”

It’s an interesting interview from Hine for any Wolves fans looking for insight into Connelly’s approach.

Here’s more on the Wolves:

  • Amid rumors that Minnesota is exploring the trade market for veteran centers, including Clint Capela, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune wonders if one of the team’s biggest offseason moves might be a position change for Towns. Rand notes that sliding Towns down to the power forward spot would improve the Wolves’ rebounding woes, and he’d likely feast on smaller players in the post, but there are some possible drawbacks. Towns is quicker than most centers, so he might lose the ability to pump-fake and drive past slower-footed defenders, and it would take him time to adjust defensively. Ultimately, Rand believes utilizing a bigger lineup could work in certain matchups.
  • Jon Krawczynski and Sam Vecenie of The Athletic discuss Minnesota’s draft possibilities for the 19th and 40th picks (the Wolves also control the 48th and 50th picks). Vecenie doesn’t love the team’s options for the first-rounder and believes trading out in order to acquire additional first-round selections makes sense, but if the Wolves keep the pick, he thinks Blake Wesley or E.J. Liddell could be decent options. Wesley, a guard from Notre Dame, is ranked 22nd on ESPN’s big board, while Liddell, a forward from Ohio State, is ranked 21st. Vecenie says there are a number of “interesting, high-upside” prospects who could be available with the 40th pick, including Peyton Watson, Josh Minott and Kendall Brown, among others.
  • The Wolves haven’t come close to trading D’Angelo Russell “or any other player,” sources tell Krawczynski in another story for The Athletic. However, Krawczynski says trade talks are expected to heat up “the closer it gets to the draft,” which is tomorrow, and the fate of Russell and other possible trade candidates should become clearer once it concludes.
  • Alondes Williams worked out for the Wolves on Tuesday, reports Darren Wolfson of 5 Eyewitness News (via Twitter). The 6’5″ guard averaged 18.5 PPG, 6.4 RPG, 5.2 APG and 1.2 SPG on .507/.282/.691 shooting as a junior for Wake Forest. He’s ranked 59th on ESPN’s board, so he could be a possibility for one of the team’s second-round picks.

Northwest Notes: Morris, Hyland, Nuggets Draft, Minott, Wiggins

The impending trade of JaMychal Green to the Thunder portends a very busy summer for the Nuggets, Mike Singer of the Denver Post writes.

Denver is intent on maximizing Nikola Jokic‘s prime years, so the fact that the team now has two first-rounders in this year’s draft suggests more moves are coming. It’s unlikely two rookies would have an immediate impact on a team with championship aspirations.

With Jamal Murray returning this season, Monte Morris could be moved. He has an affordable contract and has generated significant interest around the league, a source told Singer. Alternatively, the Nuggets might consider moving Bones Hyland for a much-needed defensive wing player.

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • If Denver holds onto the No. 21 pick or trades up in the draft, which wings might interest the front office as it looks to improve the team defensively? Singer lists a handful of wing prospects, including Duke’s AJ Griffin and Ohio State’s E.J. Liddell.
  • University of Memphis forward Josh Minott visited the Jazz and that’s significant, given where Minott is projected to go in the draft, according to Sarah Todd of the Deseret News. Most of the prospects the Jazz have worked out are projected as late second-round selections at best. In contrast, Minott is expected to go higher in the second round and could even sneak into the first round. He’s rated as the No. 46 prospect on ESPN’s Best Available list. Utah doesn’t currently have a draft pick.
  • Andrew Wiggins followed the footsteps of Kevin Garnett and Kevin Love by winning an NBA championship after being dealt by the Timberwolves in a high-profile trade, Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes. Reusse seeks out opinions from several sources as to why Wiggins has excelled with Golden State after underperforming with Minnesota.

Bulls Notes: LaVine, 10 Offseason Questions, Liddell, Minott

Two-time All-Star Zach LaVine is no longer considered a lock to return to the Bulls, with “league gossip” linking him to rival teams, as reported by K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago a couple of weeks ago. With that in mind, Frank Urbina of HoopsHype explores four potential teams who might pursue the 27-year-old in unrestricted free agency this summer.

The Lakers would obviously have interest, but acquiring LaVine would be complicated because it would require moving Russell Westbrook first, or him to be involved in a sign-and-trade. They’d also be hard-capped at that point and only able to sign minimum-salaried players to fill out the rest of the roster, per HoopsHype’s Yossi Gozlan.

Lavine makes sense as a fit next to Pistons guard Cade Cunningham, according to Urbina, and Detroit has the ability to create enough cap space to sign him outright. However, after reaching the postseason for the first time in his career in 2021/22, I’m skeptical LaVine would be interested in joining a rebuilding club.

The Heat and Hawks are two other sign-and-trade possibilities, but Urbina notes that HoopsHype and other publications still believe LaVine returning to Chicago is the most likely outcome, as the Bulls can re-sign LaVine for up to $212.3MM over five years, while rival teams will be limited to four years at $157.4MM.

Here’s more on the Bulls:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic lists 10 offseason questions looming over Chicago this summer. Mayberry wonders how the Bulls can go from good to great, whether they’ll be able to re-sign LaVine, where things stand with Lonzo Ball‘s balky knee, how to improve the team’s depth, and whether or not it’s the right time to deal away guard Coby White (who’s eligible for a rookie scale extension on July 1), among several other questions.
  • The Bulls worked out former Ohio State forward E.J. Liddell on Wednesday, as Rob Schaefer of NBC Sports Chicago relays (via Twitter). The Bulls control the No. 18 pick and Liddell is currently No. 20 on ESPN’s big board, so he could be a realistic target at that spot. Liddell had an impressive junior season for the Buckeyes, averaging 19.4 PPG, 7.9 RPG, 2.5 APG, and 2.6 BPG on .490/.374/.765 shooting in 32 games (33.2 MPG).
  • Memphis forward Josh Minott will also work out for Chicago on Thursday, tweets Adam Zagoria of ZagsBlog.com. Minott is currently No. 48 on ESPN’s board and averaged 6.6 PPG and 3.8 RPG in a limited role as a freshman (33 games, 14.6 MPG).