One of the most remarkable careers in Big Ten history came to a close last March, as Ethan Happ concluded his final season with the Wisconsin Badgers. For four straight years, he put up really impressive numbers and led the Badgers to three trips to the NCAA Tournament.
And with his graduation, Happ will hope to take his talents to the next level and make any impact. But will he hear his name called in the 2019 NBA Draft. Let’s take a look at how that might happen.
By just about any measure, Happ was one of the most dominant frontcourt players in the Big Ten and national over the last few years. At times, he was virtually unstoppable down low and carried a team with limited offensive options elsewhere to notable success. His footwork is phenomenal and he has some really good moves at scoring in the paint. Even the league’s best low post defenders had trouble with him. He’s also a really good passer from down low.
Happ is also just as good in the paint on the other side of the floor. He stays in front of opponents, keeps good body position, and can pressure the ball. Inside the arc, there really aren’t many issues with his game. That’s why he was in All-Big Ten first team consideration for his entire career.
The issue with Happ’s game, though, is outside the paint. He contributed virtually nothing from long range during his career and generally isn’t a player who is going to come out on the perimeter and defend well against athletic guards. Happ also doesn’t have the handle to really create in transition and pull up consistently outside the paint.
Happ also isn’t the most athletic player. As mentioned, this doesn’t show up that much down low, but it’s why his game has a hard ceiling. It’s pretty hard to envision him playing anywhere on the perimeter or matching up particularly well against the NBA’s new bigs.
It’s also worth mentioning Happ’s substantial struggles from the free throw line. Given his other limitations, it’s going to be hard to keep him out there late in games.
Given Happ’s limitations, he would probably fit in best as a bench option on a team with a lot of outside shooting elsewhere. He’s a terrific passer out of the post, so he could really facilitate some things offensively. Teams like the Golden State Warriors and Toronto Raptos seem like they would be decent fits for the big man.
But with that said, Happ is going to have a challenge to earn an NBA roster spot next fall. His lack of athleticism and outside shooting give him a hard ceiling. And in a league where potential is so coveted, it’s hard to think many teams are going to want to dedicate a roster spot to a player with some clear limitations. However, if Happ can show he can be productive off the bench and in limited minutes, he could stay in the league for quite some time.
It seems unlikely that Happ will hear his name called on draft night due to some of the issues noted above. However, he will get a shot to earn a spot in the Summer League and G League, should he wish to do so and skip Europe. What he does after that will largely depend on how he grows his offensive game.