Tari Eason came into the NBA as a wrecking ball and just kept wrecking — the opposition that is. The Houston Rockets selected him with the 17th pick and he went on to fulfill every bit of the hype that he was given coming into the 2022 NBA Draft.
After just one season, it’s clear that he possesses the intangibles that will be essential to flipping this rebuild into the next gear. His nose for the ball made him a hound on both sides of the ball, and it was exciting to get a glimpse into just how good he can be.
For the season, Eason averaged 9.3 points, 6 rebounds, 1.1 assists, with 1.2 steals and 0.6 blocks while playing 21.5 minutes over 82 games. His shooting splits were approximately 45 percent from the field, 34 percent from three and 75 percent from the free throw line. Not bad for a guy who doesn't have a textbook shooting form.
His efforts in his rookie campaign should earn him a spot on All-Rookie Second Team, at the least.
His combination of energy, hustle and defense really brought a needed element to this team that has lacked in those areas during this dark rebuilding era. Along with KJ Martin and Usman Garuba, Eason showed his competitive nature early in the season as the group collectively known as the “Goon Squad”, helped muck up the paint for the opposing teams.
An even brighter note is that Eason was a common denominator in the Rockets’ top two lineups this season. The quintet of Kevin Porter Jr. - Jalen Green - KJ Martin - Eason - Alperen Şengün netted a +29.8 point differential over 75 minutes this season. That bodes well considering that’s essentially the starting lineup with Eason in place of fellow rookie, Jabari Smith Jr.
The next best lineup netted +21.2 with the only exception being that the now-departed Eric Gordon was in it instead of KPJ.
While it might not be in the stars for Eason to slide into a starting role next season, one thing is for sure, and that is he needs to be on the court more next season. This team benefits from the cohesiveness he brings to the table, along with his ability to extend possessions.
His relentlessness on the boards and wherewithal to swipe the ball away from ballhandlers made for some of the most hectic, yet enthralling plays of this Rockets’ season.
To consider a player such as Eason as indispensable this early on in their career could be somewhat of a hot take, but the path for him to fill that Andre Iguodala type of role is attainable. All of his contributions aren’t quantifiable, but when I watch him, I see immense value.
As the Rockets appear ready to finally conclude this rebuild, the offseason looms a bit nerve-racking with the talks of potential trades and what that could mean for the team’s young talent. However, I trust that Rafael Stone, who has been one to remain patient, is wise enough to ensure that Tari remains a fixture in this organization for years to come.