WASHINGTON -- With a need to improve their defense this offseason and the 10th overall pick in the June 23 draft, the Wizards hosted a player who could help that cause at Monday's pre-draft workout in LSU forward Tari Eason. The 21-year-old has had a meteoric rise up draft boards over the past calendar year, throughout a breakout sophomore season in college and then an impressive showing at last month's draft combine in Chicago.
Eason averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game last season. He shot 52.1% from the field, 36.9% from three and 80.3% from the free throw line (on 5.7 attempts per game). At the combine, he posted a 7-foot-2 wingspan and had the biggest hands among all participants.
Eason is now trying to show teams like the Wizards his competitiveness, improved outside jumper and ability to make plays off the dribble.
"I think I’d fit in well [with the Wizards]. Someone who’s just a long, versatile defender who can get up and down and guard multiple positions. Really just fit in anywhere on the court," Eason said.
Eason worked out in a group of six total players including Scotty Pippen Jr., son of NBA legend Scottie Pippen, and former Georgetown player James Akinjo. The Wizards were one stop in a long line of workouts for Eason, who has already traveled through Minnesota, Charlotte, Atlanta, Chicago, Oklahoma City and New York.
Eason said he has workouts scheduled with the Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Spurs and Rockets. The Wizards one, though, was memorable because of their intense physical conditioning drills. They have long had a reputation for one of the more exhausting pre-draft workouts in the league.
Eason said afterward he appreciated being pushed to his limit and happens to thrive when the game speeds up. Many of his best highlights at LSU were on the fastbreak.
When asked about his measurables and specifically the size of his hands, Eason said it helps him play faster.
"Just as far as dunking and being able to pick the ball up at a fast speed and on the fastbreak. Just certain decision-making things, having big hands [helps]. Even ripping the ball out of somebody’s hands, just having bigger hands helps the ball be more secure," he said.
Clippers star Kawhi Leonard may be associated more than any other current NBA player with having large hands and knowing how to utilize them on defense. Eason happened to bring up Leonard when answering a question about which NBA player he models his game after.
"I’ve looked up to Kawhi Leonard. He’s a guy with big hands, versatile, plays both sides of the ball. I really like his game," Eason said.
If the Wizards selected Eason 10th overall, it would mark the fifth straight year they have drafted a forward in the first round. Eason, though, is different than those before him (Troy Brown Jr., Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija, Corey Kispert) because of his defensive upside. The Wizards clearly like him, as they also interviewed Eason at the combine.
The Wizards have plenty more pre-draft workouts planned over the next several weeks, but Eason could end up being one of the best options for the 10th pick among the players they host.