Since 1947, the Ohio State Buckeyes have sent 55 players in total to the NBA via the
Draft. The Buckeyes haven’t had anyone drafted since the 2018 NBA Draft when Keita Bates-
Diop was selected in the second round. Ohio State has not sent more than one guy to the NBA in the first round since 2007 with Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook.
In the last 42 years, Ohio State has only had four years with multiple draft selections,
1980, 1981, 1986 and 2007. That’s about to change in a big way for the Scarlet and Gray on
June 23rd, as this year, they have the chance to send two guys to the NBA in the first round.
Malaki Branham and E.J. Liddell, two Buckeye stars that shined this season under head coach Chris Holtman and have NBA-ready skills.
Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images
Malaki Branham: 19 Years Old, 6’6, Guard
It took just one year at Ohio State for the St. Vincent-St. Mary High School star to make
some noise in the Buckeye state. This past season, Branham played second fiddle on the
Buckeyes to E.J. Liddell, but to many scouts, he is seen as the better of the two Buckeyes in
this year's draft. So why is that?
Well, first and foremost, the NBA has turned into a guard heavy league. Teams want to be able to spread the floor and get open looks on the perimeter, and a guard like Branham can do that while also being big enough and strong enough to drive inside to get easy looks at the rim. Branham averaged 13.7 points per game this season, shooting an impressive 49.8% from the field and 41% from the 3-point stripe. He didn’t take many threes, but when he did, he hardly missed, and that created a lot of interest from NBA teams that believe he has a lot of room to grow. He also touted a player efficiency rating over 20 this season. Branham is currently being projected as a lottery pick this season, with Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report having him go to the New York Knicks at No. 11. Branham is one of 16
players currently invited to the NBA Draft green room, so expect his name to get called early.
Photo: G Fiume/Getty Images
E.J. Liddell: 21 Years Old, 6’7, Forward
Liddell is one of the best bigs to come out of Ohio State since Jared Sullinger in 2012.
Despite being just 6’7 and playing the power forward/center position, he led the Big Ten in
blocks with 2.6 per game and was fourth in the conference in scoring with 19.4 points per game. Liddell saw improvement in every season he played for the Buckeyes. In the three years he played for Ohio State, his points per game total went up by 12.7 from his freshman year. Liddell's player efficiency rating was 14th in all of college basketball this season, which has many scouts believing that he is going to be an NBA-ready player on day one, but his size has been the one thing holding him back. At 6’7, he fits the build for the average small forward, but his natural position is a power forward or center, which just won’t work in the NBA with seven-footers walking around on every team. Even power forwards in the NBA today average at about 6’9 which would make Liddell undersized in his position. This has led to a lower draft projection than his Buckeye counterpart in Branham, despite being the better player statistically. The NBA has seen plenty of undersized bigs perform well over the
years, but they can come with a high risk, high reward outcome. Liddell is expected to be a mid-first round pick, with Wasserman predicting he goes to the Chicago Bulls at No. 18.
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