Why Raptors' Ron Harper Jr. went undrafted

Amit Mann is joined by NBA Draft analyst Rafael Barlowe to discuss Ron Harper Jr.'s game, why he wasn't selected in the 2022 NBA Draft and how he could help the Raptors down the road. Full podcast also looking at Christian Koloko's potential is available on the 'Raptors Over Everything' podcast feed and on our Yahoo Sports Canada YouTube channel.

Video Transcript

AMIT MANN: And while we were talking to Bobby Webster, the Raptors made another signing. It was Ron Harper, Jr. And at the time, Bobby could not talk about it because it wasn't exactly official, but he did offer this nugget-- in 1986, Wayne Embry, who's one of the members of the Raptors front office, also drafted Ron Harper, Sr.

And so now you got Ron Harper, Sr., and Ron Harper, Jr., both involved in, I guess, being drafted by Wayne Embry, who is part of the Raptors front office-- a little nugget there, which I thought was really interesting.

Looking at his stats out of Rutgers, he played three years, I believe, and 15.8 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists in his senior season. He was named to the Second Team All-Big Ten and received the Haggerty Award, which is awarded to the New York area's top men's Division I basketball player.

21 years old, 6' 6", 7-foot wingspan, versatility on both ends. Your thoughts on Ron? Were you surprised he didn't get drafted?

RAFAEL BARLOWE: No, I'm not surprised that he didn't get drafted. He definitely has the resume of someone that you would draft, considering that Peyton Watson went drafted. He averaged 3 points a game and shot 32% from the floor.

AMIT MANN: I thought he was gonna be a Raptor. I thought he was gonna be a Toronto Raptor.



RAFAEL BARLOWE: It just makes this whole draft such a crapshoot. You look at Ron Harper's numbers, and you look at Peyton Watson's numbers, and you think there's no comparison.

But I think for Ron, which is weird that his dad was such an explosive athlete-- I was a kid, but I do remember, Ron Harper used to give Michael Jordan fits when he played in Cleveland. He was a great athlete. Tore his ACL, I believe, and that was back when a torn ACL was detrimental to your career. Now guys are coming back within 9, 12 months. But back then, guys were never the same after the ACL.

And I think a lot of people may remember old Bulls Ron Harper, where he was just a connective piece. But he was really a phenomenal athlete, which is weird because the biggest knock against Ron Harper, Jr., is he is not an athlete. And I watched him at the combine. I sat next to some scouts, and they liked him a little bit, but they were just like, he has no explosiveness. He doesn't have any lift around the rim. And they thought that he was gonna struggle.

So I think that played the biggest role in him falling outside of the top-- well, I would say top 60, but there were some teams that got caught cheating, so there wasn't 60 picks. But I think that was why he fell out of the top 58. But obviously, he has some value to get signed so fast.

And of course, it's an honor when any NBA team reaches out to you for a two-way. But when the Raptors reach out to you immediately after the draft, then that means they see something in you that could possibly help them out. And again, they have a pretty good track record of turning nothing into something.

AMIT MANN: I'll turn it to you in a second. But just looking at some of the clips from this morning of his driving style and his shooting-- very physical driver. He gets into people on both ends, actually. When he's defending, he will push you, and when he's on offense, he will push you while he's driving.

He is not afraid to use that big body of his. I guess some deem that has made him a bit unathletic as a prospect, but he moves his feet pretty well. The length is there. I love his jumper, and I love his footwork. It reminds me a little bit of Jimmy Butler and how he's able to pivot his way in the post and find angles and space, and he's able to hit some step-backs and fadeaways.

Very intriguing prospect. I see the vision with what the Raptors are looking for and how he's able to, potentially, help them. But the athleticism? I could see why that would be a knock.

Offensively, what do you think he brings which could potentially make him more of a prospect than some may have felt?

RAFAEL BARLOWE: Well, he's a crafty scorer. That's what you know you're gonna get from him, is this creative scorer. And I think he has to be, because he doesn't have this typical athleticism and elite first step and these natural quick-twitch gifts that some of the other guys have and that teams value on the wings.

So I think, by him not being really athletic-- forces him to be a little crafty and creative. I think, at the very minimum, he could be a 3-point shooter. Shot a little under 40% from 3. I think there could be a role. I just wondered, defensively, the lack of athleticism-- does it really hurt him more on the defensive end, even though I think he can move his feet?

But we've seen, in the playoffs, if a team sees a guy that they think is a weak link on the defensive end, then they're gonna target you every single play. And so I think that's probably the biggest reason why he fell.

AMIT MANN: On offense, he shot 30% on catch-and-shoot 3's, and he seems to really like that corner 3, which the Raptors have notoriously struggled with a little bit, just finding consistency from there.

I mentioned this in our other podcast, that I think every single Raptor was tasked with becoming a better 3-point shooter, because that was a clear weakness in their halfcourt. Pascal draws a double, he kicks it out, and it doesn't go in. But on days where it did, because shooting is up and down, the Raptors looked very different.

But Philadelphia-- they exposed that in that game 6, especially. They just really targeted the Raptors, and they left wide-open spaces on parts of the court, saying, when Pascal Siakam draws it out or kicks it out, I want to see someone hit a shot. And no one was able to it, and so they got blown out in the second half against the 76ers in that game 6.

And so that's their weakness, and it's an interesting prospect that could potentially help there. If he's able to, at the very least, just be a consistent 3-point shooter who's got catch-and-shoot chops and gets a shot off pretty quickly, with his stroke, maybe a rotation piece one day. But the defense, the lack of athleticism-- that's a thing in the NBA, and it's exposed. We saw it all the time in these playoffs and the finals, which were incredible. They were targeting anyone and everyone. That was the basis of offenses.

So if he's able to find his way through that and just continue to be physical on the defensive end and maybe gets a little more athletic, the Raptors-- like we're talking about, they're gonna find ways to develop you. They will develop you.

I still go back to that quote. "If we can find them, we will develop them." Masai Ujiri. So another project that the Raptors are taking on, and one that has a lot of God-given offensive skills on the offensive end, which is a hell of a start.

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