Wisconsin Badgers Basketball: Ethan Happ should return

On Tuesday, Ethan Happ officially declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, but if he’s smart, he’ll return to the Wisconsin Badgers.

With Ethan Happ having officially declared for the 2018 NBA Draft, Wisconsin Badgers‘ fans have officially begun to freak out. However, if Happ is smart (which he is), he’ll return for his final season at Wisconsin and ultimately, improve his draft stock.

Happ is unquestionably the most important player for the Badgers’ 2018 season. Last year, he averaged 17.9 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks, proving he can do a little bit of everything.

His scoring was, perhaps, the most impressive of all. Opposing teams constantly and consistently honed in on Happ, sending double teams whenever they could. Even though his field goal percentage dipped a bit, he averaged more points per 40 minutes (23.2) than ever before

This continued increase in points per 40, is a testament to his work ethic and ability to work with what he has. Happ has some of the best footwork in all of basketball, and not just at the college level. His pivots and maneuvering allow him to get his shot off and shoot a high percentage around the rim.

If the double-teams are too much or if there’s an open teammate, Happ has an innate skill and touch to find the open man.

His head is always on a swivel which allows him to see the whole court and find his cutting teammates. He’s also a great passer from the high post and elbow area which allows him to put some pressure on the defense and open up the passing lanes.

He’s also an impressive rebounder and uses solid fundamentals to grab 16.9 percent of available rebounds when he’s in the game. Although his lack of athleticism hurts him some in this category, his box outs make up for it and are something opposing teams are aware of. He gets very low and puts his butt right on his man’s thigh, a perfect technique. This allows him to leverage his lower-body strength and move his man out of the rebounding area.

As good as he is on offense, his defense might be an equal strength.

He’s a versatile defender who’s shown the capacity to body with big guys down low and use the rule of verticality to avoid fouling. After averaging 4.3 fouls per 40 minutes his freshman year, he lowered that number to 3.4 this past season.

When he chooses to go for blocks, he does so with an instinct mostly seen in the games best shot blockers. This is critical, as he can’t rely on an elite jumping ability he doesn’t possess.

His quick hands also allow him to swat the ball away from unsuspecting ball-handlers whether they are guards or posts. Happ has this unique way of working around the offensive player and stealing the guard’s entry pass to the post player down low.

Happ’s wide array of talent ensures he’s had a major hand in every aspect of the Badgers’ games over the last two seasons and makes it even more difficult for Wisconsin to lose him. Regardless of the Wisconsin perspective, however, Happs best move will be to return to school for a final season.

It’s hard to blame him for searching out his options in regards to the NBA Draft. It’s important to note he hasn’t hired an agent which means he can pull out before the June 11 deadline and still return to school. Also, he redshirted his first year on campus and is set to turn 22 in May. If he comes back another season, he’ll be 23 come his rookie year in the NBA, something a lot of scouts frown upon.

Putting all that aside, Happ’s draft profile isn’t complete, as he lacks a lot of the major skills NBA teams look for in their big men in today’s game.

For one, he can’t shoot. Like, at all. It pains me to say it, but it’s completely true. He’s taken 11 three-point attempts in his career (all of them last season) and only connected on one. Furthermore, he’s an awful free-throw shooter as well, making only 56.4 percent of his career attempts.

Free throw percentage is one aspect scouts look at to determine whether a prospect can develop into a good shooter even if they aren’t one right now. Unfortunately, there’s little hope Happ will ever turn into anything close to an average shooter from anywhere on the floor.

His lack of athleticism also hurts his draft profile. He’s not particularly fast nor quick and can’t jump high either. At 6-foot-9, he’s a below the rim post player who relies on footwork, instinct and a high basketball IQ to get the job done.

By returning to Wisconsin for a final year, he’ll be able to hone in on his jump shot and prove to scouts he can be somewhat capable in that category. He’ll also be able to continue to show improvement in his passing and ball-handling abilities, something that will help him offset his weaknesses in the NBA.

We can’t blame Happ for examining all of his options, this is his career and future business after all. However, at the end of the day, the best business decision he can make is to return to Wisconsin and lead the Badgers back to the NCAA Tournament.