Ethan Happ might not be a household name among fans of the Los Angeles Lakers -- the Wisconsin big man isn’t the type of prospects teams tank for, or fanbases find synonyms for futility to rhyme with their last names.
But that doesn’t mean the Lakers working out Happ -- which they will do this Thursday, according to Jim Polzin of the Wisconsin State Journal -- is inconsequential.
The Lakers have had success over the last several years specifically by scouting overlooked players like Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance, Jr.
Happ doesn’t currently appear to be a prospect on the level of those players, but neither were they heading into the draft. The difference is that Happ may not even stay in the draft if he falls too far, which seems likely given that he wasn’t invited to the NBA Draft Combine. Via Polzin:
Happ said he’d stay in the draft only if he was convinced he’d be a first-round draft pick. That seemed — and still seems — like a highly unlikely scenario based on mock drafts and the fact Happ wasn’t among the 60 players invited to the combine.
Happ said Monday night his mindset hasn’t changed in the past two months, though he hedged slightly on the draft placement issue: If Happ was told he’d be drafted early in the second round, he said, he’d have a difficult decision to make.
A recent Sports Illustrated ranking of the top 100 draft-eligible players had Happ at No. 93.
As for what type of player Happ is, I hit up Silver Screen and Roll’s own walking draft encyclopedia, Ben Rosales:
Happ has spent most of his college career getting himself onto the radars of NBA draftniks by being a statistical marvel placed into a decidedly non-NBA frame, although the degree of his productivity is sufficient that he should be to find a role at the next level.
Happ projects as a smallball five as a big without range (as confirmed by poor FT%) but he lacks ideal height and length for the position and is a relatively nonexplosive athlete. What he does have, however, is excellent screening ability, passing, P&R capability, basketball IQ on both ends, and great hands for both steals and finishing.
If that sounds like a lot, it’s a testament to Happ’s degree of production. The issue of bulk and strength will complicate how he plays against more physical bigs, especially on the glass, and while he’s quick, he’s a guy who’s going to switch onto smalls consistently (but he should be able to hard hedge well and he’s not useless here in a pinch). You generally want to bet on feel and instincts to win out and Happ has heaps of those.
While not a real option for the Lakers with either of their picks, he would be a superb UDFA or two way target and definitely fits the ethos of the Lakers’ system as a sweet passing big who sets hard screens and can offer defensive versatility.
The Lakers’ workout with Happ is likely not a solo one where they’re just looking at him as a target, but as Ben noted, they should be in line to select the big man should they see something they like. The Lakers will currently be picking 25th (via the Cleveland Cavaliers) and 47th (via the Denver Nuggets).
It appears that Happ will be well within that range if he remains in the draft, but that he won’t remain in the draft if he remains in that range. Even if he doesn’t, however, this is information the Lakers can use in future years, or at the very least evidence the team is doing their due diligence on all the available options they have as they try to find diamonds in the rough.