After watching the success of the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals, most teams feel as though they know what to look for in this Thursday’s NBA Draft – or are at least optimistic about the future. Some teams, for example the Miami Heat, are looking to add that one missing piece, while other squads need a ton of talent to become competitive again. Leading up the to draft, we will profile some of the top prospects and what they bring to the table, giving you player comparisons, ratings, outside opinions, and much more. Last we had Arizona’s Derrick Williams, and this time we’ll take a look at Richmond power forward Justin Harper.
Ceiling: LaMarcus Aldridge
Basement: Kurt Thomas
Final Comparison: Channing Frye
Ratings (on a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being overseas talent and 10 being NBA Rookie of the Year)
As a senior, Harper carried the Richmond Spiders all the way to the Sweet 16, knocking off Kenneth Faried’s Morehead State team in the process. In that game, he scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds, showcasing his all-around game. At 6-9, Harper is a big man who can play both inside and out, step out and hit a jumper or post his man up. His off-the-dribble game is fluid as he can create his own shot from the wing. For his size, he is exceptionally quick on defense and on the glass.
Comparing his outside game to Kevin Durant would be a stretch, although Harper did just that on ESPN’s First Take back in March. He shot 53 percent from the field and a very respectable 45 percent from three this season. He’s not quite as lanky as Durant, but much like KD, he’s threat to either drive to the basket or pull up from three. Another aspect of Harper’s game that I like is his balance – whether coming off screens or putting back an offensive rebound, Harper keeps his body straight up, allowing him finish around the basket.
The one knock on Harper’s game is that he will find it difficult to find a true position in the NBA. If he wants to play power forward, he will have to add strength to his 225-pound frame so he doesn’t get roughed up inside. Though he can finish well around the basket, he can afford to be more aggressive and get to the free-throw line more often. If he plans to play small forward, he will have to work on the elevating his jump shot and rebounding the basketball.
As a three-year starter and top player on Richmond, Harper has more experience than a lot of other prospects. If placed on a team where can range around the perimeter and knock down open shots, I believe Harper can make an impact right away. If asked to carry the load inside, Harper may struggle to find his offensive game in the NBA. Although, I think his propensity to shoot from outside will ultimately help him.
Harper is a high-character guy who knows how to win and knows how to play his role. His performance in the NCAA Tournament this past season reaffirmed his ability to compete with the best in the country. Even against Kansas and the Morris Twins in the Sweet 16, Harper was able to shoot 50 percent from the field for 22 points. Though he hasn’t been highly touted as a lottery pick, watch for him to go in the 20 to 30 range.
Combined Score: 38 out of 50 possible points
The draft is full of athletic tweeners who can play either the small or power forward positions, which has not always worked out right away – just look at Hakim Warrick or Earl Clark. I think with a couple years to work on his body, Harper can become a true power forward in this league.
Best Fit: New Jersey Nets
The Nets could really use a scorer to step in to the power forward position, particularly one as experienced as Harper. If Kris Humphries re-signs with the Nets, he can serve as a solid back-up to Hump and a nice complement inside to Brook Lopez.
“Justin Harper would be a good fit for the Nets. There are questions about his motor and rebounding, but at No. 27 no team is getting an ideal prospect. Billy King is looking for long, athletic bigs with significant experience, and Harper fits the bill as well as anyone. Despite his wiry frame (6-9, 228 pounds, just 4% body fat), Harper lifted 19 bench press reps to tie with probable No. 2 pick Derrick Williams for most at the combine.” – Devin Kharpertian, Nets Are Scorching
What do you think?
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