Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 70 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This installment centers on Auburn guard Jared Harper.
Jared Harper was an enormous part of Auburn’s miraculous run to the Final Four in 2019, fueling the Tigers in some of the biggest moments of the NCAA Tournament. He scored 26 points to silence the Kentucky Wildcats in the Elite 8, and averaged over 16 points per game for the tournament as a whole. Harper, while undersized (he’s listed at 5’11), made a living off of isolation, ranking in the top third of his draft class in points per possession in isolation situations. He ranked even higher in efficiency off passes in isolation possessions, hinting that he is a willing sharer of the basketball when the opportunity for himself to score is not present.
He was also one of the better pick-and-roll ball handlers in the class, ranking towards the top of the class in points per possession in pick-and-roll situations, both in his own scoring and finding his teammates. Given Harper’s lack of height, he was heavily reliant on shotmaking, and was effective shooting the ball in his final season for the Tigers. The junior ranked towards the top of the class in points per possessions on jumpers, averaging over a point per shot attempt. This number becomes more impressive when you realize 205 of his reported 229 jump shots were from three-point range. Factor in that Harper was elite in pull-up situations as a junior at Auburn, and you’re looking at a potential sixth man weapon at the next level, though his lack of height makes things tricky.
The easiest comparison for Harper that instantly comes to mind when you watch him play is Terry Rozier of the Boston Celtics. However, Rozier stands at 6’1 with a 6’8 wingspan, making him considerably longer than the former Auburn Tiger. Even without a reliable wingspan measurement on record for Harper, it’s tough to imagine he can impact the game on the defensive end in a positive way at his height. Harper gets his points from beyond the arc, and seemingly would rather pull-up in his own rhythm than shoot off of a pass from a teammate, two Rozier-type qualities. Harper will likely have to be more prolific than Rozier (career 35.4%) from deep to provide enough value to make up for the defensive liability he will almost certainly be from day one at 5’11, but that may not be such a stretch given the improvement he made over his collegiate career. It’s also worth noting that Harper’s assist percentage for his junior season was nearly double the mark Rozier has posted throughout his career with the Celtics.
Harper profiles as a potential back-up point/sixth man type of player, probably breaks into the NBA on a two-way contract, potentially as the third point guard for a rebuilding club that lacks veteran depth at the position. The fit in Atlanta is tough given the fact that Trae Young also lacks size, but that didn’t stop Travis Schlenk from bringing in Jaylen Adams after the 2018 NBA Draft. Harper profiles as a much more explosive prospect than Adams, and he has another gear he can get to athletically as well. If Schlenk liked Adams, he should like Harper more.
Due to his freakish athleticism, it feels like Harper is definitely going to be an NBA player of some sort at this stage, while it’s completely up in the air at this point as to where he’s one of the sixty selections at the 2019 NBA Draft or not. ESPN currently has Harper right on the bubble, ranking him as the 61st-best prospect overall, 8th at the point guard position. The two things about Harper to really keep in mind when it comes to whether Atlanta would pick him up or not are his lack of size and his shooting ability. His lack of size, as mentioned earlier, makes him nearly impossible to deploy next to Young in the backcourt. While that may not really matter in the second round/two-way category, it’s something worth being aware of. His shooting, however, is probably what draws a general manager like Travis Schlenk to him the most.
Schlenk has shown that he highly values shooting on draft night, with three of his four first-round picks in his first two drafts being players that were regarded as borderline elite shooters at their position. Ironically, John Collins’ shooting was probably the reason he slipped to 19 in the 2017 NBA Draft, and now he’s one of the more consistent frontcourt three-point shooting options around the league, especially if you compare him to other big men with his age and experience.
Frankly, the concerns of Harper’s fit next to Young are somewhat irrelevant with the lack of guarantee associated with the area in the draft Harper would be picked. If he goes undrafted, Atlanta should absolutely have his name circled on their list of two-way candidates, as he will be one of the better players not drafted in that scenario. Wherever Harper lands, expect him to put up numbers in any G League time he sees, and expect him to be aggressive no matter what level he is playing at.
All stats courtesy of Synergy and Sports-reference.com.