New Orleans Pelicans: How EJ Liddell could affect Jaxson Hayes

E.J. Liddell #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
E.J. Liddell #32 of the Ohio State Buckeyes (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images) /

The New Orleans Pelicans got lucky when EJ Liddell from Ohio State fell to them in the second round.

He was widely predicted to be a first-round pick, so the Pels may end up with the steal of the draft, just as they did last year with Herbert Jones.

Liddell played both power forward and center last season for the Buckeyes even though he is just 6-foot-7, using his 7-foot wingspan to be a disruptive defender and shot blocker.

There might not be immediate minutes for him on the Pelicans’ depth chart, but getting a guy like him in the second round may help the Pels make a future decision on another player in Jaxson Hayes.

Hayes is due for an extension this offseason which is going to be a tough decision for the Pels, as he has flashed otherworldly athleticism and potential but also still has some of the same problems with defense and decision making that he had when he came into the league as a very raw prospect.

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Hayes is certainly more athletic and if you watched the two you might say he clearly has the higher ceiling, but the two do have some overlapping skills, which may ultimately make Hayes redundant.

New Orleans Pelicans: Will EJ Liddell take minutes from Jaxson Hayes?

I do not think Liddell is going to come in and supplant Hayes right away, after all, Jaxson was a starter for much of last season and has improved in some areas. He’s also still just 22-years-old, so not much older than Liddell.

But Hayes is making $6.8 million next season and will be looking for a raise, so it’s fair to ask if Liddell could be a cheaper option for his backup minutes.

Liddell is the more versatile player, as he can bang in the post or step out on the perimeter and hit shots, making 37 percent from long range this season. Hayes has shown that ability too, but lacks the playmaking that Liddell possesses and has exactly zero moves in the post.

Even though he is smaller, Liddell might already be a better rebounder and shot blocker, which are areas in which Hayes has not excelled thus far in his career when you consider his size and athleticism.

Liddell also possesses a high basketball IQ and many of the intangibles the New Orleans Pelicans are looking for, as he was a leader at Ohio St. and reportedly has a strong work ethic.

EJ Liddell will also be on a rookie deal for the next several seasons, which is an important factor when you consider the Zion Williamson extension and the fact that the Pels are going to have a very expensive roster soon.

All of this opens up the possibility that Jaxson Hayes will be traded this offseason before the Pelicans have to decide on his extension or he gets to restricted free agency.

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