Justin Harper is getting hype as a late first round pick and it’s pretty easy to understand why. At 6’9 he should be able to play either forward position in the NBA and he can shoot the lights out. But what makes Harper great also makes it difficult to find comparisons. Eight of his 10 comps come from one conference, but it’s not the Atlantic 10, and they also leave some doubts about his skills will translate to the next level.
Harpers top 10 most similar players:
- Kyle Weems, Missouri State, 2011 (1.71)
- Daniel Kickert, Saint Mary’s, 2005 (2.17)
- Levi Dyer, Illinois State, 2007 (2.42)
- Nate Funk, Creighton, 2005 (2.50)
- Craig Craft, Southern Miss, 2007 (2.56)
- Dale Lamberth, Missouri State, 2007 (2.57)
- Dale Lamberth, Missouri State, 2008 (2.60)
- Dale Lamberth, Missouri State, 2006 (2.73)
- Clint Cuffle, Evansville, 2003 (2.81)
- Anthony James, Northern Iowa, 2011 (2.84)
Apparently the Missouri Valley Conference is the land of good shooters, because that’s what we’ve got here. Except that all of these similarity scores are pretty far off. In the struggle to find a comparable player two 6’3 guards slip in at #4 and #5. It’s worth noting that Lamberth, who appears three times in a row, played in Finland and then in the ABA with the Kansas City Stars.
A few things stand out to me when I look at Harper’s offensive game. For one, as a big man he didn’t do a lot of damage on the offensive glass. For two, he was part of a three-headed Richmond attack that might’ve limited his touches and thus made it hard to figure out his comparables. (Here’s a further breakdown of Harper’s game from Mid-Major Madness.)
The thing is, I don’t think a single player on the list above has logged a minute in the NBA. While it’s tough to judge Harper by that standard because the scores are so far off, I’ll be taking note of it come the end of the first round. Also, maybe if Harper succeeds Weems, who scored 16 points per game and shot 39.5% from three-point range for MSU last season but is a little undersized at 6’6, will get a look as well.