Tari Eason is one of the most intriguing combo forward options in the 2022 NBA Draft class, thanks to one of the best bodies for his position, a baseline of fundamental skills, and a really high ceiling.
He started his high school career at Garfield High in Seattle, playing under NBA legend Brandon Roy, but didn’t play much his freshman and sophomore years. Eason left to Federal Way High to play with Minnesota Timberwolves forward Jaden McDaniels, while Roy took his own one-year break from Garfield.
Eason and Roy reunited at Garfield for his senior season, when they won a state title over potential top pick Paolo Banchero and O’Dea High. In the title game, Eason had 21 points (three made three-pointers) and 14 rebounds; Roy said, “Use your teammates, but we need you to be Superman.”
. @TAR13ASON's deep 3 and air guitar send Garfield into halftime upnon O'Dea 33-20. Garfield picking up where it left off yesterday @SBLiveWA #HardwoodClassic https://t.co/7UKQto8bc5 pic.twitter.com/xvq2iyjseH
— Andy Buhler (@AndyBuhler) March 8, 2020
Despite having plenty of offers to stay out west for his college career, Eason committed to Cincinnati, where he had limited success, averaging 7.3 points, 5.9 rebounds, and 1.3 assists, starting just 8 of 23 games. Eason transferred to LSU for his sophomore season and blossomed into a real NBA prospect.
Because this is a comparison that I’d much rather have coming from someone more credible than me, here are some notes from The Athletic’s Jon Hollinger and Sam Vecenie’s combine notebook:
Tari Eason (LSU) measured as well as expected at 6-foot-8 in shoes with a 7-foot-2 wingspan. The thing that popped off the page though was his 11-inch hand-width. That’s essentially a Kawhi Leonard-like mark, as the former San Diego State forward had 11 1/4-inch hands when he was at the combine back in 2011. Eason had the biggest hands at this combine. It’s hard to come up with a more ideal frame for a combo forward than Eason’s.
There are a lot of significant jumps from Cincinnati to LSU, most notably the shooting efficiency, but especially 3P% – 24.1% to 35.9% – and FT% – 57.4% to 80.3%. Another important note to make about his strong season at LSU is that he shot 57.2% at the rim, above average for NCAA, especially for a forward.
But this is a case where the stat profile feels incomplete without mentioning his staggering advanced stat profile, and I’ll be comparing them with Jaden Ivey, since he’s a high profile prospect that has the ball in his hands a lot and really just does a lot.
- Free Throw Rate: .515 (better than Ivey’s .469)
- Turnover Frequency: 13.8% (better than Ivey’s 14.8%)
- Usage: 31.8% (higher than Ivey’s 28.7%)
- True Shooting: 61.5% (better than Ivey’s 57.9%)
- Points Produced: 506 in 806 min (more efficient than Ivey’s 586 in 1132 min)
- Win Shares: 5.9 and .294 per 40 (better than Ivey’s 5.1 and .181)
There are a few different core elements that make up who Eason is as a player, one of the more important ones being that allegedly-improved shot. I say “allegedly” because without concrete numbers before his time at college, it’s tough to know which of the two years at college is the more flukey year.
There are a few things that go into why I believe he will shoot at an at least passable level in the league: the three made threes in the high school title game against Banchero as well as the better efficiency year coming on the higher volume.
If we were to place each prospect’s shot mechanics on a scale of 1-100 relative to each other, Eason is probably in the 60-65 zone, which is to say that there’s more prospects he’s ahead of in that department than behind, and it’s not all that different from what it looked like at Cincinnati; my guess is LSU just empowered him more from that distance to play more freely.
The shot directly coincides with his dribble-drive game, because he’s building up a repertoire of threats against a defense that they have to prepare for. He’s excellent in this area, able to use his athleticism to get by defenders and able to use his body to barrel into guys when necessary.
As far as the other facets of his offensive game, much of Eason’s role at Cincinnati involved screening and slipping screens for much of his perimeter time. That comfortability carried over to LSU, where he’s able to use his gravity to open up lanes for others, like on a play where he slips back to back screens, opening up a corner three for a teammate:
He’s elite as a playmaker for his position, though that doesn’t translate to many assists – just 2.3 assists per 100 possessions at LSU – but having someone that can connect your offense from a combo forward spot in both transition and the half-court can really open things up for other scoring threats.
they call him Tari Two-Way for a reason pic.twitter.com/RpqMVuqDRG
— damon allred (@iamdamonallred) May 24, 2022
Defensively, Eason is as disruptive as a hellhound, and it bears out in the numbers. He averaged 5.0 stocks (steals + blocks) per game in both seasons as well as 7.0 stocks per 100 possessions in both seasons. He also combined for above a 10% stock number when combining the two advanced numbers, another elite mark
Among guys in the back half of my lottery (front half includes Chet Holmgren, Jabari Smith Jr., Paolo Banchero, Jaden Ivey, Shaedon Sharpe, Johnny Davis, and Dyson Daniels), there’s not really anyone I’m more confident in being a solid NBA player than Eason.
think this is my favorite example from tari that i've seen yet. he's packed with fight and fire, and it's so easy to see him panning out as a solid player in the nba. pic.twitter.com/Dpe3J1SJDg
— damon allred (@iamdamonallred) May 25, 2022
If my Phoenix Suns were lucky enough to acquire a lottery pick, he’d be close to, if not at, the top of my wishlist for his fit on the squad.