Prospect Ethan Happ talks about the pre-NBA Draft process. Rod Beard, The Detroit News
Auburn Hills — As the Pistons continued their workouts in looking for suitable prospects in the NBA draft, one thing is clear: all options are on the table.
Among the six prospects they worked out on Thursday at the practice facility were two guards, two forwards and two centers. With no first-round pick and only one in the second round (42nd overall), they have to account for all possibilities, which they with the wide swath.
In Wisconsin’s Ethan Happ, a 6-foot-10 center, they are looking for a versatile skill set. Happ is as regarded for his passing and ball-handling skills as he is for his shooting.
Happ, a two-time selection to the All-Big Ten first team, still has a year of eligibility remaining — and because he hasn’t hired an agent, would be able to return to school, if he chooses.
It’s an interesting prospect, given then depth of this year’s draft and the fact that Happ is projected to go in the middle or end of the second round — by no means a comfortable position to be in to want to stay in the draft.
“So far, with the teams I’ve worked out for, (the projection) has been late-second round. With that, I’d rather go back to school,” said Happ, who has worked out for seven teams already.
“There’s no guarantees unless you’re early in the first round. There’s so much stuff that happens in the first 30 picks that there’s no way to guarantee a spot.”
Happ was the only player in the nation to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals and ranks second in school history in rebounds (875) and second in field-goal percentage (.564).
His versatility at his size will make him attractive to many teams, possibly earlier in the second round.
Although first-round picks have guaranteed contracts, the trend is moving toward some of the second-round picks also getting guaranteed money; that could be the case with the Pistons’ pick at No. 42.
With his skill set, Happ could fit that bill, if he’s able to get his scoring level up to where his passing and dribbling are.
“That’s the feedback I’ve gotten from other teams. This is my seventh workout and a lot of teams say that for a big, my passing and ball-handling is almost elite for my size,” Happ said. “The biggest thing for me is to start with the 10- to 15-footer and after I get comfortable with that, then move out to three. Once that gets down, my stock rises a lot.”
Players worked out
The other five players in their workout were guards Jaylen Adams (St. Bonaventure) and Andrew Rowsey (Marquette), forwards Bogdan Bliznyuk (Eastern Washington) and Kelan Martin (Butler) and center Malik Pope (San Diego State).
Adams, a 6-foot-2 point guard, is intriguing in that he was an honorable mention All-America selection and averaged 19.1 points and 5.2 assists in his senior season. He also shot 44 percent on 3-pointers and is top scoring guard in school history.
That skill set matches up with the Pistons’ current point guard, Reggie Jackson, whom Adams emulates in his game.
“I pride myself on being a distributor and shooter. It’s more of the same outlook that Reggie has here,” Adams said. “I’m glad I got to come out here and showcase it a little bit.”
Adams is a rarity: a senior who played all four years in college and is viewed as a good prospect in the draft.
Instead of a hindrance, Adams is trying to use that experience as an advantage.
“It’s helped me mature over four years, competing in practice against some good guys. It helps us come out there in workouts and compete more,” he said. “I’ve been put in more situations and just got more opportunities to play with the ball in my hands.
“Instead of playing just one year, I’ve had the chance to play all four years.”