Detroit Pistons Draft Dreams: Justin Harper


The Pistons are in a good position holding the third pick in the second round. Every year, late first round talents fall into the early second, and with this draft heavy in bigs who are considered projects, the Pistons could nab someone who falls out of the first round, including Richmond’s Justin Harper.


Measurables: 6-foot-10, 225 pounds,  senior F from Richmond

Key stats: 17.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.2 blocks per game while shooting 53 percent

Projected: Late First Round

How would he help the Pistons?

Most Pistons fans will look at Harper’s lack of bulk along with his pedestrian rebounding average and say, ‘next.’ But the best thing to like about Harper’s game is the leap he took between his junior and senior seasons.

I always like college players who show significant improvement. As a junior, Harper was a solid role player at Mid-Major school Richmond, averaging about 11 points and five boards per game. He’d never shot 50 percent in a season, never came close to 40 percent on 3-pointers and wasn’t considered a NBA prospect.

As a senior, he became a legitimate go-to player. His 53 percent shooting bested his previous career-best by 5 percent. His 45 percent 3-point shooting was 8 percent higher than his previous best.

Joe Dumars loves picking versatile, athletic, players in the second round who aren’t necessarily confined to a position. Harper’s shot-blocking ability would potentially help him find a niche with the Pistons and his versatile offensive skillset — he was effective in the paint and from the perimeter for Richmond — give him the appearance of a stronger version of Austin Daye. Harper’s skillset, along with his obvious work ethic that allowed him to make a dramatic leap in production, make him intriguing if he’s available in the second round.

How wouldn’t he help the Pistons?

The Pistons might be in the market for a more conventional big man. With picks like Daye and Jonas Jerebko in recent years, along with the signing of Charlie Villanueva, Dumars has seemed to show a preference for offense and positional indifference rather than for finding guys who strictly fit into traditional position roles. That strategy obviously hasn’t been a great success so far. This offseason is a big one for Dumars, and it will be interesting to see if he continues with whatever his vision was for a rebuilt Pistons team when he started desconstructing his title contender three years ago or if he makes some adjustments and puts more of a premium on defense and rebounding over offensive versatility. My hunch is he will look to make the team bigger and stronger, particularly up front, and if that’s the case, I don’t know that Harper would be a fit.

What are others saying?

From DraftExpress:

"And that’s where the tremendous intrigue of Harper’s game comes into focus. While the practice of evaluating international prospects with size and skill is an annual practice among NBA scouts, rare is the American college player that presents this kind of package at the high level that the Richmond senior does. While he certainly isn’t on the same level as Kevin Durant, it’s easy to make the argument that no college player has so closely resembled the current NBA star since he left the University of Texas four years ago."

From ESPN:

"Harper is another sleeper to watch carefully this year. He has three attributes that NBA scouts covet — he can shoot from distance, is an excellent athlete and he’s 6-foot-10. Reminds me a bit of Channing Frye. He won’t be a great rebounder or a tough low post player in the pros, but his ability to stretch the floor is intriguing."


"Has a fluid stroke with range out to NBA 3 … A quality spot up shooter who gets his feet set and releases the ball in good speed for a 6-10 forward … Has been on an absolute tear shooting 49% from 3 on a high volume of shots as a senior … Likes to roam around the perimeter, gain possession of the ball and face the basket … Utilizes his excellent foot speed well to beat defenders … Proficient at getting defenders off balance with a pump fake/jab step and then blowing by them and getting to the rim using the dribble … His quickness and shooting ability makes him excellent in pick and pop situations … Quality free throw shooter at over 80% … Has an effective righty jump hook he uses when he spins right … Can create shots off the dribble and uses a spin move and polished fade away jumper … Handles the ball well for a 4"

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