This is a part of our NBA Draft Prospect Review series where we evaluate the top players of the 2022 NBA Draft by reviewing every shot, assist, turnover, steal and rebound during their most recent collegiate season. Every writer was given access to game footage and asked to deliver their takeaways about the player in whatever manner they saw fit.
I have heard a lot of good things about Tari Eason, but had never actually watched him play this season. So when given the opportunity to dive into some film and make an evaluation of him as a prospect, I jumped at the opportunity.
He is definitely not going to find himself in the conversation at the top of the draft, but as a potential mid- to late-lottery pick, I think there are a lot of skills that you can see translating into the NBA.
Let’s take a look at some of the positives, negatives, as well as potential career outlook.
Many of my positive takeaways for Tari Eason came on the defensive end. He moves his feet well for somebody his size and wreaks a lot of havoc as an off-ball defender. He gets his hands in passing lanes and generates a lot of steals. He averaged 1.9 steals per game last season at LSU.
He has a tendency to take some chances when going for blocks and steals, which is definitely a negative, but he is also able to recover quickly because he is athletic. That will need to be cleaned up a bit at the next level, but there are a lot of attributes about his defense that gives you confidence in him being a good defender at the next level.
He seems like somebody that will be very switchable due to his athleticism and ability to move his feet on defense. He isn’t huge, as he comes in at 215 pounds, but the quick feet will benefit him in being able to guard 1-4. That is huge for the Pistons, as their defense deploys a lot of switches.
Eason showed some flashes in his ability for weakside blocks, he averaged 1.1 blocks per game last season, but I think he is going to be most effective moving around the perimeter and using his quick hands and quick feet to generate steals on defense. And that isn’t to say that he doesn’t defend his position well, as he definitely does, but his athleticism and quick hands are a weapon to deploy on defense.
Eason is a high-end athlete for somebody of his size, and that definitely comes through from watching him. While he is not great at creating his own shot (I will get into that later), he has a tendency to grab rebounds and get going toward the basket on the fast break. He doesn’t have a great handle, but he is able to use his athleticism to beat guys down the court in a straight line and create easy baskets for himself.
If you like dunks, you are going to get a lot of those with Eason. I didn’t see tons of finishes off of lobs, but that very well could be a product of just not having lobs run for him. There is no doubt his athleticism will translate on defense as well as through open looks generated on the fast break.
There is definitely a baseline for Eason becoming a respectable shooter. He shot 36% from behind the arc in his sophomore season at LSU on 2.4 attempts per game. A large majority of them were of the catch-and-shoot variety, but in an offense centered around Cade Cunningham, a lot of his shots are going to be catch-and-shoot anyways.
He also shot 80% from the free-throw line and shot 5.7 attempts per game, so he is able to get to the charity stripe and knock them down. Free throw percentage is usually a huge indicator of a player’s shooting potential and the fact that he is a good free-throw shooter, plus shot the ball well from 3 means he is likely able to shoot it at the next level.
I feel like his jumper starts out a bit low, but I don’t think it is broken by any means, which is why he should be able to at least be a competent shooter at the next level.
Shot creation is not overly important as an athletic big man who can finish on fast breaks and dunk from anywhere on the court. However, a large majority of the offense that Eason generated came on straight line drives to the basket. This works when you are the most athletic player on the floor in college, but it will be more difficult to do at the NBA level.
He doesn’t really have a ton of counter moves in the film that I reviewed. If he cannot get to his spot on the straight line drive to the basket, he has a tendency to stop and shoot a fadeaway jumper. He did show flashes of a floater on a few of his drives, but most of the time he tries to get all the way to the rim and dunk or finish from close range. And if he doesn’t he is usually stopped by a defender and that takes the floater away as an option.
His offense is very much predicated on taking what the defense gives him, which limits his ceiling a bit as an offensive player. If he isn’t grabbing an offensive rebound and getting a put back, straight line driving out of the set offense, or grabbing a rebound and running, he isn’t doing much else on offense.
Having good guard play will make his job easier, but I would not expect Tari Eason to ever be the focal point of the offense and somebody who can go out and take over a game. That should not be the expectation of somebody drafted in his range and with the potential he has on defense, it won’t matter as much.
I don’t think Eason is a bad passer as he had some pretty solid reads on tape. However, as is evidenced by his 1 assist per game, he doesn’t pass the ball much. That makes it tough to make a full evaluation of his passing ability.
This was especially evident on his rebound-and-go attempts. Most of the time he was able to get to the basket with ease because he is playing against less athletic players in college, but I am curious to see whether he can adapt and make passes on the fast break when defenses are actually keeping up with him.
Same thing with his drives to the basket out of the set offense. If he cannot make it to the basket, is he going to reset and not take a bad jumper or force a shot? This will be something he has to develop to become anything more than a high-end role player in the NBA.
He averaged 2.2 turnovers per game in college, which is not good for somebody passing the ball as little as he does. It is definitely a product of trying to go too fast at times and not having the best handle.
I think Eason comes into the NBA as somebody that can defend multiple positions and switch when needed. He will use his athleticism to finish easy looks created by his teammates. Similar to somebody like Brandon Clarke for Memphis.
If his shooting translates to more attempts, he has the potential to be more than a high-end role player. Every starting lineup needs somebody that can defend, hit open jumpers, and finish easy attempts generated by the offense.
I am just not sure if you are spending a lottery pick on him unless you are fully confident in the shooting translating. I think it will, which is why I would be comfortable using a pick in the 8-14 range on him.
Should the Pistons Draft Him?
Eason is somebody the Pistons should consider if they somehow acquire another lottery pick or mid-1st rounder. An Isaiah Stewart-Tari Eason front court, while lacking in height, would be very switchable defensively. However, one of them is going to have to shoot for it to work fully, and I don’t think it is a pairing that could start every game together due to lacking a bit in the height department.
Worst case scenario for Eason is that he is an energy big who can defend multiple positions, and that is useful on any team. It would be a bit of a disappointing outcome for a lottery pick, but sometimes seeing a clear role for a late lottery pick is better than just taking a swing for the fences.
In the event the Pistons trade Jerami Grant to acquire an extra pick and their top pick is not a big man, Eason could be a very solid consolation prize who can fill in the Jerami Grant role down the line.