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NBA Draft’s Potential Celtics: Richmond F Justin Harper

06.17.11 at 7:49 am ET
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WEEI.com continues to provide daily insight and analysis on the 2011 NBA draft. This is one in a series of profiles of players who might be available for the Celtics to select with one of their two picks (25th and 55th overall).

Justin Harper has earned comparisons to Kevin Durant for his scoring prowess. (AP)

Justin Harper

Position: Forward

School: Richmond

Height: 6-foot-10

Weight: 225 pounds

Stats: 17.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 1.2 bpg, 44.8 3pt%

What he brings: Harper is that valuable breed of forward that provides size inside and shooting range on the perimeter. The senior’s stats may have been a bit inflated because Richmond plays in the Atlantic 10, but advanced statistics ranks him as one of the most efficient scorers in the nation, near the likes of Derrick Williams and Kyrie Irving. With Harper’s fluid movement and ability to get inside, some draft experts say he is the closest thing college basketball has seen to Kevin Durant since the former Texas star left for the NBA. While that assessment probably is a stretch, Harper’s size will allow him to shoot over most defenders, even at the next level.

Still, some critics say Harper hasn’t taken full advantage of his potential. While seven rebounds a game is a solid count, scouts expect a few more blocks from a player of Harper’s size and athleticism. He’s also been accused of “falling in love” with his jump shot, and he will have to show more toughness in the paint to compete in the pros. At the very least, Harper could have success in the NBA running a pick-and-pop and knocking down 18-foot jumpers, but he’ll need to develop an inside game to break into a consistent starting role.

Where the Celtics could get him: First or second round

What they’re saying: “I think when teams get to see how well he moves, how well he dribbles, just how effortless his shooting is, it’s really going to impress people. There aren’t many guys his size — it’s not even close — that are that fluid. It’s a very rare for a player to have all of those abilities. … He’s clearly one of the best shooters in the country, and again, it’s so unique given his size.” — Richmond coach Chris Mooney

Notes: Harper led the Spiders to an A-10 title and Sweet 16 berth in the 2011 NCAA tournament after upsetting fifth-seeded Vanderbilt in the second round. He scored 22 points on 9-of-18 shooting in Richmond’s season-ending, 20-point loss to top-seeded Kansas. Harper’s father, Ollie, scored 1,300 career points for Niagara in the 1970s and was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame.

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