One of the surprising things about the NBA Draft from a Big Ten perspective\ was that no one from Wisconsin heard their name called. The talented departing senior class had a chance with Bronson Koenig and Nigel Hayes, but neither was selected on June 22nd. All hope is not lost for either player, though, as Hayes has since signed with the New York Knicks and Koenig potentially with the Milwaukee Bucks.
Wisconsin last appeared in the NBA Draft with the first round selections of Frank Kaminsky (No. 9) and Sam Dekker (No. 18) in 2015. It was the first time in school history that Wisconsin basketball had multiple first rounds picks in the same year.
Don’t expect for the Badgers to follow up that achievement within the next couple years, but they do stand a chance to return to the draft with the talent of junior Ethan Happ.
Last season, Happ averaged 14 points per game and nine rebounds. If not for Caleb Swanigan’s historic season, he probably would have won the Big Ten Player of the Year. The 6-foot-10 big man shot nearly 60 percent from the field and played great post defense in his sophomore season. With the top four out of five scoring leaders graduated, Happ should earn as many touches as he wants in 2017-18. With an offense completely devoted to him, expect him to potentially put up monster numbers.
From an improvement standpoint, Happ could stand to develop more of an outside shot. Shooting three-pointers will never be his game but he will not be able to just play entirely in the post in the NBA. Developing a knockdown 15-footer would be greatly beneficial and could potentially open up his ability to drive and pass.
In addition to his lack of an outside shot, Happ is also a liability at the foul line. Last season, the Illinois-native shot just 50 percent on 162 attempts.
Current mock draft projections for next year are all over the place, especially with Happ. NBADraftNet and SBNation do not have him in their initial 2018 rundown, but DraftExpress has him projected to go early in the second round. On a brighter note, Gary Parrish of CBSSports has Happ going in the first round with pick No. 27.
Outside of Happ, it is difficult to project who else could be in line for a shot in the NBA. The roster this year in Madison is so young that, outside of Happ, Wisconsin could be looking at a prolonged drought of players entering the NBA. Wisconsin does have a solid recruiting class coming in, and a talent like Nathan Reuvers is someone to watch, but any NBA aspirations are a few years away.
Overall, expect Happ to make a serious run at the NBA Draft in either 2018 or ‘19. After the departure of four seniors, it will be interesting to see how Wisconsin remakes itself and who emerges under Greg Gard.