Happ looks to give it his best shot

Ethan Happ would have been a lock to be selected in the NBA Draft a decade ago.

Heck, even five years ago, the odds of Happ being chosen would have been considerably high.

But the NBA game has changed, radically changed, and now there aren’t any assurances the former University of Wisconsin standout big man will have his named announced during next month’s draft.

“I would say Happ is on the bubble,’’ said an Eastern Conference executive when asked about Happ being selected in the two-round, 60-player draft set for June 20.

Which is shocking when you look at the superb body of work Happ fashioned during his decorated career at Wisconsin. The 6-foot-10 Happ was consistently one of the best players in the Big Ten, one of the best conferences in the land, and last season, as a senior, he recorded a double-double by averaging 17.3 points and 10.1 rebounds.

His season included a 34-point performance against Marquette and a 31-point outing against Purdue. Oh, and against national champion Virginia, Happ merely scored 22 points and grabbed 15 rebounds.

Happ was duly recognized for his stellar season by being accorded the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award as the nation’s best college center.

“I’ve watched him over his career; I’ve been him play a bunch of times,’’ said a veteran Western Conference college scout. “He’s a very good player. He’s got some good assets.

“He’s pretty clever around the basket, he’s got excellent footwork, he can pass – he’s a very good passer actually – and he can board.

“He just has one major flaw: He can’t shoot. At least, he hasn’t shown he can shoot with range.’’

Indeed, shooting with range is almost mandatory for an NBA player these days. If you can’t shoot the 3, or at least stretch the defense, you’re going to have trouble finding employment in the league.

So while Happ shot a commendable 53 percent from the field last season, he took just five shots from beyond the arc and didn’t make any. Additionally, he struggled at the free throw line, making just .466 of his attempts.

Fortunately for Happ, he’ll get a chance to show NBA officials he’s a better shooter than those numbers suggest. Happ will participate in the initial G League Elite Camp in Chicago, starting on Sunday.

If Happ acquits himself well, he’ll be invited to participate in the NBA draft combine, which starts on Wednesday, also in Chicago.

“I think whether he gets drafted will depend a lot on how he does in Chicago,’’ an Eastern Conference executive said of Happ, who is represented by Mark Bartelstein, one of the best agents in the business. “He has to show he’s capable of hitting an outside shot. If he does that, I think he’ll get drafted.

“But even if he doesn’t get drafted, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on someone’s roster next season.  He just needs to get a consistent shot to complete his game.’’

Told of the executive’s comments, the college scout said, “That wouldn’t shock me, either, if he’s in the NBA next season. He’s a good player. Showing he can shoot it (in Chicago) would go a long way toward helping his (draft) stock.’’

— Photo courtesy of the University of Wisconsin

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