According to Spotrac, the Charlotte Hornets have three wing players that qualify for free agency this offseason in Jalen McDaniels, Cody Martin, and Miles Bridges. Depending on how the Hornets decide to manage these players’ contracts, they may be looking to add another wing. With that in mind, Tari Eason from LSU could be an intriguing prospect for the Hornets to consider.
Weight: 216 lbs.
College Stats and Awards:
According to lsusports.net, Eason averaged 16.9 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.9 steals, and 1.0 blocks. In terms of awards, Eason achieved the following this past season: All-SEC First Team, SEC Sixth Man of the Year, AP Honorable Mention All-America, and SI Third Team All-America. Eason significantly improved in his sophomore season after transferring from Cincinnati to LSU. In his previous season at Cincinnati, Eason averaged 7.3 PPG and only shot 24.1% from three, according to Sports Reference. He doubled his scoring at LSU and increased his three-point percentage to 35.9%.
Offensively, Eason is a handful in transition. He can handle the ball on the break and finish over defenders with his length and verticality. He also is a lob threat in transition. To demonstrate how successful Eason was in transition, he ranked in the 90th percentile in transition offense, according to Synergy Sports.
In the half-court, Eason is at his best when exploiting mismatches in the post or driving to the basket. He exploits mismatches as a driver when he is guarded by a big with his quickness and uses his size and length to score when guards switch onto him. Eason ranked in the 83rd percentile in half-court offense, according to Synergy Sports.
Not only is Eason comfortable scoring in the post and scoring off drives, but he excels at getting to the free-throw line as well. Kevin O’Connor from The Ringer mentions that Eason attempted 5.6 free throws per game, which was one of the highest rates in all of college basketball this past season. He also is a decent spot-up shooter from three.
Overall, Eason’s combination of length, touch, and speed allows him to get to the rim and finish at an incredibly high rate. Eason’s fluid athleticism and guard skills as a wing make him a great fit in the modern NBA.
Defensively, Eason has great length and is a fluid athlete. He was able to guard every ppsotion at the college level due to his size and athleticism and will be able to do the same in small-ball lineups at the next level. Eason possesses good lateral quickness as a forward and can comfortably switch onto guards, but also has the length to contest big men. Eason can use his length to get in passing lanes and block shots, as evidenced by his averages of 1.9 steals per game and 1.0 blocks per game, according to Sports Reference.
Offensively, the first thing that stands out is his shot selection. In LSU’s heavy isolation and free-flowing offense, Eason had the green light to attack. This resulted in poor shot selection and showed his limitations as a playmaker, which resulted in a negative assist-to-turnover ratio. Eason sometimes gets tunnel vision as a driver and shoots contested shots at the rim. He also lacks creativity as a driver and seems to be a straight-line driver at this point. As a shooter, Eason is comfortable in spot-up scenarios but would benefit from speeding up his release. There is still room for improvement with his jump shot. He also is limited in the mid-range and could use work as a pull-up shooter. Eason was only 26% (9/34) on jump shots off the dribble this past season.
Defensively, Eason has all the tools to be an elite defender: size, length, mobility, and instincts. His defensive ceiling will come down to his motor and awareness. Right now, Eason is sometimes casual on the defensive end. He falls asleep on switches and will lose his man off the ball. In today’s NBA, where three-pointers are at a premium, Eason must be focused as an off-ball defender. An increase in attentiveness will do him wonders as a defender. In terms of his motor, when Eason is locked in, he can be elite. When he is not, he is average defensively. Ultimately, it is up to him in terms of the defender he wants to be. If his motor and attentiveness are at a high level, he has the tools to be an elite defender.
Fit with the Hornets and Overall Assessment:
Overall, Eason is a fit for the modern NBA due to his skillset. He is a wing that can guard multiple positions, has some guard skills, and is a very good athlete. Since Charlotte likes to play small ball and wants to play up-tempo, Eason would translate well to their system. Offensively, he could be a screener for LaMelo Ball in pick-and-rolls and is a hybrid wing that could be utilized in hand-off action with the Hornets’ guards. He would be fun to watch in transition with LaMelo Ball as well. Defensively, Charlotte needs to improve their perimeter defense and Eason has the tools to elevate them on that end.
Eason’s projection ranges from the late lottery to the early twenties. The Hornets could look at him with either the 13th or the 15th pick.