LSU basketball forward Tari Eason was named with the 17th overall pick in the first round of the 2022 NBA Draft by the Houston Rockets.
Eason averaged 16.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in 33 games for LSU. He shot 56.4% from two-point range, 35.9% on three-pointers, and forced nearly three laps into the game.
The sophomore spent only one season in Baton Rouge after moving from Cincinnati, averaging 7.3 points and 5.9 rebounds. Despite his big numbers at LSU, Eason came off the bench in all but four matches and because of that he won the SEC Sixth-Man of the Year.
Here are the pros and cons of choosing a rocket.
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At 6 feet 8 and 216 pounds, Eason’s height, size, and sportsmanship as a winger make him a perfect fit.
He makes better use of those physical talents to his advantage in defense, as he has the speed to defend smaller guards while having the length to snag larger players. He’s been consistently high-driven and uses his long arms—Eason has a 7-foot-2 wingspan—to snatch defensive bounces, create deflections, and block passing lanes.
Because of this versatility and athleticism, he was a constant force and a focal point of LSU’s defensive scheme that was based on size and height.
Eason hasn’t improved in attack but he has made some big strides on this side of the ball at LSU. Despite playing against tougher competition as a sophomore, he averaged another nine points and an extra recovery while improving his efficiency as a thrower.
His shot ratios improved despite taking nearly five more shots per game at LSU. He was also much better at the free-throw line, shooting 80.3% in 5.7 attempts per game after hitting only 57.4% of his shots in two attempts with Cincinnati.
Eason has also improved as a ball handler and decision maker. It averaged the same number of shifts at LSU as it did in Cincinnati even though its usage jumped from 23.5% to 31.8%.
There is a possibility that Eason’s leap as a shooting leader and top scorer at LSU is just a picture on the radar and can’t be translated into the NBA.
Although it has improved, its shooting mechanics are still far from perfect. And although he has reduced his turnover, his decision making can sometimes be reckless. He also lacks the nuance and craft of a shooting innovator, often turning toward defenders as he leads to the basket.
But the biggest problem with Eason is his shallow record as a talent in the NBA. He was a three-star recruit and only fired 24.1% of the 3-point range in Cincinnati.
The defensive height and attacking potential of Eason as a winger make him a player worth the caliber in the first round.
But whether he deserves to be a lottery-level talent depends on how predictable his final season at LSU is for the NBA.
If he can be a strong shooter and show continued growth as a decision maker and pitcher, Eason could be a very valuable spinning piece or so for any NBA team. But if his shot falters to first-year levels and his senior year at LSU becomes like a flash in the pan, his chances in the NBA may be limited.
Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.