Auburn basketball: Jared Harper can make an impact for the Knicks

Jared Harper of Auburn University (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Former Auburn basketball star Jared Harper is getting a second shot at his NBA dreams with the New York Knicks.

Jared Harper will be back in blue and orange. On Tuesday, the Phoenix Suns officially announced they were waiving the former Auburn basketball star. The 5-foot-10 guard didn’t last long on the open market as the New York Knicks have claimed the 22-year-old off of waivers according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. Along with claiming Harper, the Knicks have waived third-year guard Kadeem Allen.

Harper, who went undrafted in 2019 after a three-year career for the Tigers, primarily spent this season on the Northern Arizona Suns — the G-League affiliate of the Phoenix Suns.

During his junior season with Auburn, Harper averaged 15.3 points, a team-high 5.8 assists and 2.5 rebounds per game while shooting 39.9 percent from the field and 37.0 percent from beyond the arc.

The undersized guard was an essential part of the Tigers run to the Final Four in 2019 but that didn’t translate to much success in the NBA as a rookie. On a two-way contract, Harper appeared in just three total games for Phoenix where he played 2.7 minutes a contest and scored just two points on four shot attempts.

However, in the G-League, Harper showed the scoring ability and passing ability that made him a star in college. Harper was consistently Northern Arizona’s best player and in 33 games, the former Auburn star put up 20.8 points, 5.7 assists 2.8 rebounds and 1.0 steal per game.

Now, as far as the New York Knicks go, the team has been a bit of a dumpster fire for the past few years. Criticized by their front office and ownership, the team hasn’t made the postseason since 2013 and churned out an unimpressive 21-45 record this season.

Part of the reason for the Knicks’ lack of success in recent years has been their lack of consistent impact at the point guard position. This is exactly why I think Harper could absolutely make an impact at the NBA level and New York gives him a great opportunity to do so.

Sixth-year pro Elfrid Payton served as the team’s starting point guard for most of the season where he averaged a respectable 10.0 points, 7.2 assists and 4.7 rebounds per game.

While Elfrid does provide strong defense and is a great facilitator, his offensive game leaves much to desire and his three-point shot is pretty nonexistent (20.2 percent on 1.5 attempts per game.)

On the other hand,  Harper shot the ball at 35.9 percent from deep on 7.4 attempts per game. It’s clear that Harper isn’t afraid to shoot the ball and for a team ranked second-to-last in the league in scoring and dead-last in three-pointers per game, it’s clear that the team could use some of what Harper offers.

Behind Payton, the Knicks also have former lottery pick Dennis Smith Jr. but after the incredibly disappointing season that he had this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if he doesn’t last much longer in the Big Apple.

The Knicks, who are projected to have the sixth overall pick in the upcoming NBA Draft, are probably going to draft a point guard. They’d be stupid not to. Regardless, I firmly believe Harper has a place in this league and I think he would quickly become a fan favorite amongst Knicks fans if given the shot.

I’m not saying Harper is a surefire star or anything but I do believe he plays his role well, is a smart basketball player and could be an excellent building block for a team that desperately needs them.

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