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Knicks Trade Rumors: Team “covets” Tari Eason

A very solid player, but it just doesn’t make too much sense

NBA: Phoenix Suns at Houston Rockets Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports

Yesterday was a huge day for the Knicks. Both Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle were named All-Stars, the former had a huge 40-point game in a gutsy comeback win that ended with a touching and emotional moment with the fans during his post-game interview, and we finally got updates on the latter’s injury. But lost amidst all of that was a new name being linked to the Knicks and their never-ending search for depth.

Enter Tari Eason. The second-year forward isn’t as high profile as Jordan Clarkson, Malcolm Brogdon, or Colin Sexton, and wouldn’t help fill the bench playmaking hole that the departure of Immanuel Quickley left behind. But what Eason could potentially do is give the Knicks some much-needed power forward depth. While there is now news that the star power forward will be reevaluated in two to three weeks, nothing seems to be ruled out, meaning that there is a possibility that he will miss an extended period after that. If that were the case, the Knicks would remain pretty thin, not just in the backcourt, but in the frontcourt as well.

Now, Precious Achiuwa has recently done an admirable job filling in as the starting power forward, averaging 13 PPG, and 8.7 RPG in 38.7 MPG through three games. But Eason could give Tom Thibodeau a different look and option as a starter. Eason, like Achiuwa, is 6’8”, and provides some of the switchability that Achiuwa has defensively. During his short NBA career, Eason has proved that he is quick enough to guard smaller players but also has the size and strength to matchup with bigger forwards as well. The 22-year-old Houston Rocket is also a solid rebounder, averaging 10.4 rebounds per 36 minutes throughout his career.

But offensively, he’s a different player. Unlike Achiuwa, who operates more in the paint and off of pick and rolls, Eason plays on the perimeter a bit more. And there’s a case to be made that Eason, who is currently shooting 36% from three on 3.7 attempts per game, would be more helpful offensively. He’s also shown a knack for being in the right spots and at the right time and finding ways to score in a manner that may remind some of the Knicks’ very own Josh Hart.

That being said, it is also important to mention his offensive flaws. Eason is far from a polished offensive player and despite his solid shooting percentages, his shot form looks clunky, and he isn’t a volume shooter. He also tends to appear out of control and careless with the ball in his hands, especially in transition. The hope, for those who want Eason on the Knicks, is that with Hart, DiVicenzo, and Brunson here, he’d be asked to do way less than he has been at times in Houston and that with a smaller role offensively, he could fit in nicely on a Thibodeau-lead Knicks team that likes gritty, switchable defenders.

But not everybody seems to be on board for targeting Eason, and it’s understandable. The initial reports that surfaced yesterday suggest that Houston would ask for Quentin Grimes in a trade. While Grimes isn’t untouchable by any means, trading away a young shooter who also happens to be one of the two best point-of-attack defenders on the team doesn’t make much sense. Sure it could help strengthen their power forward depth in case Randle is out for the rest of the season, but Eason doesn’t move the needle any more than Achiuwa does. And on top of that, trading away Grimes would be a lateral move at best since it would just open up another hole on the team. We also can’t forget about the fact that while being young is looked at as a plus on many teams, it can often be a negative when playing for Thibodeau, making trading for a player who may not even get that many minutes a risky move.

Eason, given his respectable outside shot, ability to find ways to score in transition, and switchable defense, isn’t a bad option in a vacuum. But given who the Knicks have, who they’d have to give up, and what they still need, trading for Eason shouldn’t be a priority and should only be revisited if they can find a way to acquire him without giving up Grimes.