RTC NBA Draft Profiles: Justin HarperPosted by rtmsf on June 15th, 2011
Over the course of the next month until the NBA Draft on June 23, RTC will be rolling out comprehensive profiles of the 35 collegians we feel have the best chance to hear their names called by David Stern in the first round that night. There won’t be any particular order to the list, but you can scroll back through all the finished profiles by clicking here.
Player Name: Justin Harper
Height/Weight: 6’9/230 lbs.
NBA Position: Small Forward/Power Forward
Projected Draft Range: Late First/Early Second Round
Overview: They say that you can’t teach size, but what they really mean when you hear that phrase is a big man’s basic ability to stand near the basket, drop shots into the hole, rebound, and throw up his arms on defense. The sentiment is that even the most lead-footed of big players is good for a few minutes per game perfoming the aforementioned activities. What they are not referring to is shooting the ball, especially from distance. And this is exactly what makes Justin Harper such an intriguing prospect. At a legitimate 6’9, the Richmond senior is coming off an all-Atlantic 10 season where he proved himself as one of the very best outside shooters in the entire country. He averaged 17.9 PPG and 6.9 RPG while knocking down 77 threes and hitting them at a nationally-ranked 44.8% on the season (for comparison, Jimmer Fredette hit 39.6% last year). It’s not that Harper is only an excellent shooting big man, it’s that he’s an excellent shooter. And therein also lies the quandary for teams looking at the prospect as a future power forward or small forward in the NBA — do you really want to spend a first round pick on a guy his size who prefers hanging around the perimeter?
Will Translate to the NBA: Clearly, Harper has a knack for shooting the ball, with his abilities extending out to the NBA three-point line and beyond. At a legitimate 6’9 with a smooth release, he’ll have no problem getting his shot off against most defenders. According to DraftExpress, nearly half of Harper’s shots last season were jumpers, and he nailed both twos (59%) and threes (45%) at a highly efficient rate. He’s also shown a demonstrated ability to improve, going from a mere 8.6 MPG during his freshman season to becoming one of the best and most decorated big men in Spiders history. He’s also helped by being a relatively young senior, as he will not turn 22 years old until the coming fall.
Needs Work: If he plans on playing as a power forward at the next level, Harper has no choice but to develop a semblance of a low-post game. Right now he has almost none. If he plans on playing small forward at the next level, Harper has no choice but to improve his ball-handling and aggressiveness off the dribble. Right now he is quite average in those areas. Overall, he has a somewhat-deserving reputation as being a soft player, which is another characteristic that most NBA GMs shy away from when evaluating big men. Given his improvement over four years at UR, there’s no reason to believe he can’t continue to build on his deficiencies, but it may impact his first couple of years on a roster.
Comparison Players: Tayshaun Prince or Channing Frye come to mind at first. Both are tall and lanky players whose range extends out far beyond the paint. The key difference at this point in his career is that Harper is nowhere near the level of defender that Prince and Frye are, but with an appropriate amount of effort there’s no reason to believe that Harper couldn’t too become at least competent in that area of the game. The difference in favor of Harper is that he’s probably a purer shooter than either of those guys, and they both do quite well from the perimeter in the NBA.
Best Case Scenario: The best case for Justin Harper is for him to continue his upward trajectory and add both a modicum of an inside game and a better defensive presence to his arsenal. This would make him a solid role player in the NBA, someone who could come off the bench for some long-range offense in the mold of Matt Bonner or similar, and would allow him a nice ten-year career in the league. He’s never going to transform his game into an interior-based one, but his shooting at his size alone should always give him an advantage in making a final roster.
2014 Projection: In three years, we suspect that Harper will have added a few more dimensions to his game and become a seventh or eighth man on a decent team’s bench. He won’t appear to have star power ahead of him, but he’ll be competent as a shooter and provide spot minutes on the wing where needed. Still only 24 years old, his best years will be ahead of him but the fear is that he’ll never quite figure out his position and struggle to see starter’s minutes.
Best NBA Fit: The best fit for Harper would be for him to have an opportunity to provide instant offense from the perimeter off the bench. This will allow him to do what he does best and build confidence while developing the rest of his game on the side. The New Jersey Nets at #27, Cleveland Cavaliers at #32, and Washington Wizards at #34 were among the three worst teams in terms of three-point differential last season — any of this trio could stand to have a sweet-shooting big man coming off the bench to drop a couple of bombs each game.
Scout’s Take (Chris Denker from Netscouts Basketball): “soft, an outside first guy… he’s 6’10 and can shoot, but he’s a Rashard Lewis wannabe… some hand skills but he won’t use them a lot… at minimum, a good shooter.”