Harper played four seasons at Richmond, averaging 17.9 points and 6.9 rebounds in his senior season when he shot 53 percent from the field. At 6-10, 225 pounds, Harper is expected to play both small and power forward if he can make the Magic roster, which already is filled with veterans.
Liggins averaged 8.6 points and 4 rebounds in his third and final season with Kentucky. He is known more for his defense and toughness.
The Magic did not have a first-round pick Thursday, trading it to Phoenix in December as part of the deal that sent Marcin Gortat, Vince Carter and Mickael Pietrus to the Suns in exchange for Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson. The Suns then dealt the Magic pick (No. 23) to Houston in another trade. The Rockets used the pick Thursday to take forward Nikola Mirotic of Spain.
“He’s a tough kid who isn’t afraid to work,” said Magic general manager Otis Smith. “He was one of those guys who was a little unnoticed at Kentucky, but he came up big when he was called upon.”
The Magic are coming off a disappointing, first-round playoff loss to the Atlanta Hawks, a sharp drop from back-to-back seasons playing in the Eastern Conference final.
They are hoping that Harper can give them some flexibility in the front court. They compared him on draft night to Rashard Lewis, a big man with good outside shooting skills.
“I’m thrilled to be coming to a good, established team,” Harper said. “I think I can help them. It should be a good fit.”
The Magic considered trading into the first round, but they didn’t find what they liked. Smith said he was more interested in acquiring veteran help to improve the team. He said there is a chance of a trade could come before July 1.
They will try to build a better team around All-Star center Dwight Howard, who has said he will exercise an option in his contract to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2011-12 season.
Howard still is eligible to sign a contract extension until July 1, but has declined, looking forward to free agency after next season.
He also has said several times since the season ended that he wants the Magic to find him more teammates who are focused on winning a championship.