Eason shined for LSU after transferring from Cincinnati. On top of playing outstanding defense, the Rockets rookie showed the ability to shoot, draw fouls and handle the ball. His well-rounded offensive game is a complement to his rugged, energetic defense.
"I believe that no one can score on me. Or I make it hard for people to score on me. I know it's the NBA and certain dudes are going to score and things are going to happen. But I pride myself on my defense."
Tari Eason on his defensive confidence 😤
— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPointsApp) June 24, 2022
The Rockets have tons of young players, including third overall pick Jabari Smith Jr., who will most likely start ahead of Eason. Even as a bench player – or perhaps as a small-ball center next to Smith from time to time — he should have a very impactful rookie season. Here are three bold predictions for Tari Eason's rookie season with the Rockets.
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3 bold predictions for Tari Eason in his rookie season with Rockets
3. Eason continues to be an efficient 3-point shooter
One of the biggest swing factors for Eason is his shooting. He connected on 35.9 percent of his 2.4 3-point attempts per game last season. Over three-quarters of his shots were from inside the arc, which doesn't inspire confidence that he will become a strong shooter. However, there is plenty of room for optimism.
Although Eason won't be a true floor spacer, he has shown some intriguing shooting abilities with his free-throw efficiency. Not only did he shoot 80.3 percent from the charity stripe, but he also shot 5.7 attempts per game. That is a good amount of volume, especially for someone who played only 24.4 minutes per game. It shows that his shooting touch is very real.
Having a solid free-throw percentage in college often leads to being a good 3-point shooter in the NBA. It has proven to be an indicator that is just as good, if not better, of success behind the NBA arc than college 3-point shooting. For Eason, this is very good news. He may be a low-volume shooter — don't expect him to be anything else — but he should be an efficient one.
2. Eason emerges as the Rockets' best defender
Of all three predictions, this one seems to have the best shot at happening. Houston has a need for defense, which was a key reason why drafting Eason was such a good move for them. His defense and confidence will make him the team's most notable defender in his rookie season.
Eason has the size and mobility to match up with just about any player. Although he will have to monitor his fouling, like all young bigs, he has the tenacity to make a real impact from day one. This will be huge not only for when the Rockets need stops but as they look to build a competitive culture.
If the Rockets can also get 2021 pick Usman Garuba going, they will have the option to use a frontcourt pairing that can switch onto players and help them clamp down the opposition pretty well. After watching Christian Wood's defense, Rockets fans will be over the moon watching Eason cover ground and lead the young team on defense.
1. Eason makes an All-Rookie Second Team
It seems unlikely that someone picked as far back as Eason was will make an All-Rookie Team. However, strong defense is often rewarded by voters. The clearest case of this came last year with Herb Jones of the New Orleans Pelicans, the 2021 draft's 35th overall pick. He was such a monster on defense that he nearly made the first team.
Obviously, Jones and Eason are different players on different teams. But the groundwork has been set for players who come into the NBA and dominate on defense getting recognition for it. If Eason can stick with his matchup and give Houston a strong defensive presence near the rim, he may take home an accolade.
There will be a lot of strong contenders for the All-Rookie First Team this season. Eason still has some questions about his offense that could make his first-team case harder to prove. Regardless, his tremendous defense will make him a name worth remembering.