With the 10th overall pick in the upcoming 2022 NBA Draft, the Wizards may have to make a difficult choice between two players at the same position. We are going through those decisions in a series of articles, continuing with two forwards who could be on the board at 10: Jeremy Sochan of Baylor and LSU’s Tari Eason.
The case for Jeremy Sochan
The Wizards could use defense and athletic upside and those are the two biggest selling points for Sochan. He’s only 19 years old and has a raw offensive skill set, but his mobility at 6-foot-9 suggests a high ceiling at the NBA level if he is developed correctly. Sochan is fast, agile, strong and can get up in the air to throw down lobs.
Sochan’s best path to minutes early in his career is likely as a rebounder and defensive specialist. He was the BIG 12 Sixth Man of the Year while playing that role. He averaged 9.2 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals in 25.1 minutes per game. If the Wizards drafted him, it would be a matter of taking the long view, as he would probably be on the outside looking in of a crowded forward mix.
The Wizards, though, could be paid off in the long run. Maybe Sochan starts out behind Rui Hachimura, Deni Avdija and Kyle Kuzma and outside of their rotation. But he is so young and so athletic, that he could be worth the wait a few years from now. Whether he reaches his potential will depend on defensive consistency and whether he can improve his outside shot dramatically, as he made just 29.6% of his threes last season and wasn’t great from the free-throw line, either (58.9%). An ideal situation for Sochan would probably factor in some patience and perhaps a point guard who can run the floor and set him up for easy buckets.
The case for Tari Eason
Just like Sochan, Eason gets most of his praise on the defensive end. He played backup center last season at LSU, but showed flashes of versatility, a high motor and he has ideal measurables for a wing defender. At 6-foot-8, Eason has a 7-foot-2 wingspan and recorded the biggest hands at the draft combine. He has a lot of parallels with Kawhi Leonard in that regard, though it’s hard to predict if he will fill out as Leonard has.
Eason was very productive last year at LSU. He scored (16.9 ppg) with solid efficiency (52.1% FG, 35.9% 3PT, 80.3% FT), he rebounded (6.6 rpg) and he forced a ton of turnovers (1.9 spg, 1.1 bpg). He was a fairly average outside shooter but shot a high percentage at the free-throw line and in considerable volume. Offensively, Eason stands out the most around the rim where he has excellent touch, even when getting bumped by defenders. Defensively, he’s aggressive and physical, two traits the Wizards could use more of.
At 21 years old, Eason is two years older than Sochan, but he is also a bit of a late bloomer who enjoyed a breakout season at LSU after transferring in from Cincinnati. Eason is also a more polished and well-rounded player at this stage in his development. Because of that, you could say his floor is higher than Sochan’s and he is more likely to contribute right away. The question would be how his ceiling compares, as that is very important when you’re selecting a guy in the top 10. Much of that will depend on just how versatile he can be defensively in the NBA and whether his ball-handling and outside shooting continue to improve.
Best fit for the Wizards: Tari Eason
While Sochan’s long-term potential is intriguing, the Wizards would seemingly get a much safer bet in Eason, who would also offer plenty of upside in the years to come. Eason was a two-way player in college and the Wizards need more two-way players. Also, it would be much easier to justify adding an average shooter like Eason than a below-average one like Sochan, given the Wizards were last in the NBA in 3-pointers made last season.
Now, Eason would have some overlap with players on the Wizards’ roster. He is essentially a 3/4 combo and they have a lot of those. But he is the type of hard-nosed defender the Wizards don’t have enough of and that teams can’t have too many of. As long as Eason can shoot at a near-league-average level, he could fit in a lot of lineups with the Wizards.
In the short term, Eason could impact the offense in transition. Long-term, the hope would be the flashes he showed as a creator off the dribble become a more reliable part of his game. Either way, Eason makes sense for the Wizards now and in the future.
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