The Portland Trail Blazers’ forgettable 2021-22 season is in the books and it is time to turn our attention to the 2022 NBA Draft. Unlike recent years, Portland has multiple picks in this year’s process. After finishing the regular season with a 27-55 record, the Blazers enter the lottery draw with the sixth-best odds in the NBA. Buoyed by those odds, the Blazers are poised to exit the draft with the rights to a marquee prospect.
LSU forward Tari Eason takes center stage in this profile. In his lone season with the Tigers, Eason displayed versatility and NBA upside.
- Height: 6’8”
- WT: 216
- Wingspan: *
- Shooting Hand: Right
- Position: F
- Age: 20 (turns 21 on May 10)
Projected draft range: 14-20
*Available wingspan measurements range from 6’9” to 7’1”
- PTS: 16.9 | Per 40: 27.7
- REB: 6.6 | Per 40: 10.8
- STL: 1.9 | Per 40: 3.2
- BLK: 1.1 | Per 40: 1.8
- FG%: 52.1
- 3P%: 35.9
- FT%: 80.3
Eason is one of the most explosive athletes at his position group. Defensively, he is a steal artist. Eason utilizes his next-level burst to invade passing lanes. Even in one-on-one situations, he seeks out the ball with superb hand placement. Inside the arc, Eason’s athleticism allows him to come across the lane quickly to complete highlight-worthy blocks.
In the paint, Eason’s rebounding is in a class of its own. He constantly fights for position and reloads between jumps with eye-popping speed. His work on the offensive glass routinely extended possessions and generated easy buckets.
Eason has the framework in place to develop into a multi-level scorer. When he has space in catch-and-shoot situations, he can knock down three-pointers. Eason is not afraid of contact off the dribble. His fouls drawn per 40 minutes rate registered at No. 15 in the country as a result (per KenPom). In transition, Eason throws down highlight-worthy finishes with his long strides and leaping ability.
Everything that Eason does well on offense starts with his right hand. In halfcourt sets, Eason operates almost exclusively with his right. That dependence leads to turnovers and fouls. Competent defenders force him left and feast on easy opportunities when Eason continues going right anyway. Eason struggled with turnovers and fouls throughout his sophomore season. As a reserve, he fouled out of five contests. He also finished six games with at least four turnovers.
Eason is a limited offensive player outside of transition opportunities. His predictable driving style and dependence on a single hand curb his shot creation potential. Eason’s shot mechanics are clunky at best. At times, his three-point shot looks more like a shot put attempt. Eason regularly pushes the ball through his right shoulder for off-balance attempts. He needs significant space when shooting from beyond the arc.
Following his college debut at Cincinnati, Eason transferred to LSU. Eason was featured as an impactful sixth man. In 33 outings (four starts), he made significant statistical improvements across the board. As a team, LSU finished with a 22-12 record and a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The Tigers’ tournament run was short lived, though. LSU was bounced by Iowa State in the opening round.
Eason earned the SEC Sixth Man of the Year award and a spot All-SEC First Team.
Eason has NBA-quality athleticism and size. Along with those attributes, he is a high-motor player in several key areas. Outside of those positives, Eason has significant improvement areas. He needs to mitigate his right-hand dependence and continue to make strides with his outside shooting. If Eason fails to develop in those areas, opposing teams will give him plenty of space on the offensive end.
Eason is a raw frontcourt player with several traits that cannot be taught. Even if he falls short of his two-way ceiling, he should have a career as a high-energy reserve big man.
The Blazers have struggled with physical play during several periods of the Lillard-era. Eason fits the mold of a player ready to address those deficiencies. On both the offensive and defensive end, he is not afraid to mix it up. Along with his physical nature, Eason thrives in the margins. His ability to secure offensive rebounds and generate steals should translate nicely to the NBA.
In terms of timeline, Eason’s fit is murky at best. He has serious development areas to address. His lack of halfcourt offense would seriously compromise Portland’s spacing. Defensively, Eason could contribute fairly quickly off the bench. But his issues with foul trouble could limit his availability and effectiveness.
Eason would have been a near-perfect match for the Pelicans’ draft pick, but that opportunity has passed. If the Blazers move down from their original draft slot, Eason could land on their radar. Eason’s ties to Blazers legend Brandon Roy provide the foundation for a feel-good storyline. Eason played under Roy for the majority of his high school career at Garfield in Seattle.