The Washington Wizards have the 10th overall pick in the 2022 NBA Draft. Here is the latest in our series on draft prospects who could fall around where the Wizards will select...
2022 NBA Draft Wizards Prospect Profile: Tari Eason
2021/22 stats: 33 G, 16.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg, 1.0 apg, 1.9 spg, 1.1 bpg, 52.1 FG% (5.8/11.1), 35.9 3PT% (0.8/2.4), 80.3 FT% (4.6/5.7)
Player comparison: Mikal Bridges, Jaden McDaniels
Projections: NBC Sports Washington 14th, Sports Illustrated 16th, Ringer 16th, Athletic 18th, ESPN 17th, NBADraft.net 12th, Bleacher Report 16th
5 things to know:
-Eason is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in this draft at the forward position. He boasts a 7-foot-2 wingspan and has the quickness to guard smaller players. Eason is really good at forcing turnovers, as evidenced by his 1.9 blocks and 1.1 steals per game. And he's a terror on the fastbreak, with the ability to get up the court quickly and finish with agility and power.
-He has two-way potential, as he led LSU in scoring last season with 16.9 points per game on solid efficiency. Eason didn't make threes in high volume, but shot a decent percentage. He shot 52.1% from the field and got to the line a lot, knocking down 80.3% of those attempts. In addition to transition plays, Eason really stands out as a finisher around the rim. He has impressive touch and timing when navigating shot-blockers and is not afraid of playing through contact.
-Eason played for Cincinnati as a freshman, then transferred to LSU. He more than doubled his scoring average year-over-year and in doing so vaulted up draft boards. Eason is 21 years old, but just had a birthday in mid-May. But even though he's a bit older than most lottery prospects, his recent leap suggests he may be a bit of a late bloomer with plenty of upside left to tap into.
-LSU had Eason playing as a backup big man, which is why he was able to win SEC Sixth Man of the Year despite being the team's best player. But that was also at a position he's unlikely to play at the NBA level, given his size and mobility. Eason has a relatively raw game as an offensive playmaker, but shows more flashes than most at that stage do. He's got a quick first step and every once in a while will pull out a nifty dribble combination to blow past defenders in the halfcourt. If he really works on his game, Eason could be an impact scorer in addition to his defense.
-Eason was born in Portsmouth, VA but played high school ball in Washington state. His high school coach was former NBA star Brandon Roy.
Fit with Wizards:
On the surface level, there may be some redundancy on the Wizards' roster if they took Eason with the 10th overall pick. It would be the fifth straight year they drafted a forward. He's of similar size to Rui Hachimura and Deni Avdija and may overlap quite a bit with Avdija, in particular. They have other, more pressing positional needs.
But they also need defense, desperately, after taking an unexpected step back last season. And Eason is the type of defender who could fit in many different situations due to his versatility and potential impact in switch lineups. The Celtics are reminding everyone in this year's playoffs that you can make it work with multiple defenders of Eason's size and ilk. His length, quickness and mentality on the defensive end would fit very well on a team like Boston and the Wizards could use more players like him.
The Wizards' depth at Eason's position, though, could certainly create some barriers for him in the short term. He would not be guaranteed minutes right away. But helping his cause would be the fact he might be more athletic than any of the Wizards' current forwards and because he has two-way potential. If he defends better than Hachimura and Corey Kispert, head coach Wes Unseld Jr. would likely find him playing time. If he does that and shoots better than Avdija, he could become a rotation mainstay.
Eason would also arguably fit the Wizards' competitive timeline fairly well. He's skilled enough to make an initial impact and also athletic enough and on a trajectory that could suggest a decently high ceiling long-term. Maybe stardom is out of reach, but he could be a really good player and a key cog to a winning team.
2022 NBA Draft profiles: