Justin Harper (Richmond)
6'9, PF, 230 lbs.
Always skilled for his size and semi-athletic, Justin Harper came out of nowhere this year and showed his versatility. While still fairly new to the game, Justin shows a great shot for a stretch four and solid basketball IQ.
Offensively, he's best in the catch-and-shoot situations; particularly from beyond the arc. Justin shot near 45% from college three and occasionally showed off NBA three point range as well. He has such a fluid shot with unlimited range and a quick release, that he should at least make a roster as a stretch four. At the college level, Justin also showed the occasional ability to post-up and either use a right-hand hook or a turn-around fade-away.
However, Justin has many weaknesses offensively. He tends to struggle when rushing his jumper. He lacks any offensive game outside of spot up shooting that will translate to the NBA as he lacks the aggression to get into the lane or to the line.
While he did post-up against some college fours, it was in spurts against smaller defenders. Rarely in the NBA will he have that match-up. He rarely showed the ability to take players off the dribble and did not show much passing prowess.
Overall, Justin should be dangerous next to a drive and kick guard or classic post-up five. He will do well in the catch-and-shoot as a stretch four, and should knock down shots in pick-and-pop situations. Developing a pump-fake into a dribble drive pull up jumper when spotting up would improve his effectiveness tremendously.
Defensively, Justin will struggle at the next level. Currently, he lacks the strength to defend post-up players. He does show solid enough lateral quickness to adequately defend the pick and roll. However, his rebound rate is somewhat alarming as a college PF. He lacks the length and athleticism to block shots as an interior defender and the speed and quickness to defend the three.
Overall, Justin has a tremendous shot for a power forward and should stick in the league as a role player based on that ability, solid athleticism, and solid basketball IQ. His strengths and weakness are both vast making him no more than a niche player though.
He resembles a poor man's Rashard Lewis at Orlando. A spot-up four with a fluid shot, decent athleticism, and who avoids contact. However, if defended by a smaller, less physical player, he can still post up and use his height.
How does he fit in with the Bulls?
The Bulls need more floor spacers and Justin would definitely provide that for Derrick Rose, especially since they don't have anyone who can do that at the PF position presently. I can imagine using Justin as an option in playoff series against the Heat using his pick-and-pop all game.
However, Justin will struggle defensively at the next level which could impact his playing time, especially with a crowded defensive oriented front-court. While Boozer is atrocious defensively, at least he can board. Justin doesn't even do that. His best defensive trait might be defending the pick and roll, but the Bulls still have three players better at it on the roster.
Another thing to consider is Justin had one strong year for a mid-major type team. It will take a while for his game to translate to the next level. Strictly as a Power Forward, will he be able to play behind Carlos or Taj? Is he strong enough to play playoff type basketball?
At this junction of the draft, if we keep our pick, we might be choosing between two similar players in JaJuan Johnson and Justin Harper. Justin shows a little more fluidity in his game, is a little stronger, a little quicker laterally, has much better NBA three point range with a quicker release, and is strictly an NBA four.
JaJuan shows more versatility in guarding the four or five, will be ready quicker, has much longer arms, and provides better shot blocking, rebounding, and has established himself against a tougher Big Ten Conference. He also shows a better mid-range and is a threat from NBA three if not as good as Harper.
I feel that JaJuan has more upside while Justin better fills a specific niche as a stretch four. I think the question comes down to what the Bulls front office plans on doing with Taj in the future. If they see themselves trading Taj, I feel JaJuan provides a Taj type impact with a better jump shot and not as strong defensively due to lateral quickness. If they think they might keep Taj, Justin might provide the occasional threat to space the floor when we are in dire need of shooting.