Raptors’ two-way has family connection 36 years in the making

PISCATAWAY, NJ - MARCH 06: Ron Harper Jr. #24 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
PISCATAWAY, NJ - MARCH 06: Ron Harper Jr. #24 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors‘ front office trio of Masai Ujiri, GM Bobby Webster, and senior advisor Wayne Embry appears to have once again nailed the NBA Draft. Snagging a potential starter in 7-1 Arizona center Christian Koloko seemed like a nice addition, and the Raptors aced the undrafted market by adding Ron Harper Jr. to the mix.

The Rutgers ace was a worthy prospect irrespective of his last name, as he was the unquestioned best player on a Scarlet Knights team that pulled off a half-dozen upsets against some of the country’s best teams. That had to make his father, former 90s Bulls standout Ron Harper, beam with pride.

When Embry was the GM of the Cleveland Cavaliers, his inaugural 1986 draft featured so much wheeling and dealing that he drafted two future All-Stars and one five-time champ in the first 25 picks.

After using the No. 1 pick on five-time All-Star Brad Daugherty and trading for Mark Price, Embry drafted the elder Harper No. 8 overall out of his alma mater of Miami Ohio.

36 years after Embry picked Harper Sr. in Cleveland, he played a part in convincing Harper Jr. to start his NBA career with Toronto when several other teams were likely hot on his tail. Time will tell if Harper can live up to his father’s legacy at the professional level.

Toronto Raptors: Wayne Embry signed Ron Harper Jr. and his father.

While many NBA fans remember Harper as a ferocious 6-6 defender who could handle the ball on Michael Jordan’s legendary Bulls teams, that epoch of his career only tells half the story. Harper averaged 19.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 4.9 assists per game in the first eight seasons of his career with the Cavs and Clippers.

If the Raptors get one-fifth of that production out of his son, getting him in a two-way will have been a steal of a deal. Harper has an unusual body type for a ball-handling wing at 6-6 and around 240 pounds, which likely contributed to him going undrafted. That doesn’t negate all of his positive qualities.

Harper is an improving 3-point shooter who is a proven shot-maker at the collegiate level. A three-level scorer built like a tank and has a long wingspan, Harper’s bucket-getting potential could be enough to help him wiggle onto Toronto’s opening night roster.

This little tidbit is not only because both father and son have made it to the NBA, but also because Embry continues to prove he is one of the most accomplished executives ever. A Hall of Famer and the first-ever African-American general manager in NBA history, Embry’s scouting eye remains as sharp as ever at 86 years old.

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