Jabari Bird strives to etch out NBA career following 4 years at Cal

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Ethan Epstein/Senior Staff

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Since joining the Cal men’s basketball team as a true freshman for the 2013-14 season, guard Jabari Bird has had the benefit of being able to fall back on another season with the Bears. Having rode out all four years of collegiate eligibility, Bird will officially fly away from Bear territory with the hopes of landing a job in the NBA.

With the 2017 NBA draft less than 24 hours away, the Bay Area product finds himself on the outside looking in, hanging under the radar of Mock Drafts around the board, most of which do not project him being selected.

Bird has put himself in the best position possible to be drafted in the weeks leading up to the draft, working out with the Atlanta Hawks, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and Sacramento Kings.

One of Bird’s best pre-draft workouts was with Los Angeles, as the guard received a round of applause following an excellent showing in the team’s shooting drill in which he tied the record of 27 points.

In his interview with Los Angeles reporters, Bird said he’s been trying to, “show I’m a consistent shooter from three-point range, show I’m a versatile defender, that I’m playing hard and my athleticism.”

The guard has not appeared on any recent mock drafts even as a late second-round selection, but Bird’s participation in pre-draft workouts may sway to take a chance on him. Should the draft end without a team deciding to call his name, Bird would still have an opportunity to show out in the NBA’s Summer League which features a plethora of undrafted prospects.

Given the strides Bird has made in his four-year career at Cal and his pre-draft activity, seeing Bird suit up with fellow youngsters in the next couple of weeks wouldn’t come as a surprise.

The guard had a career-year scoring and rebounding during his senior season, averaging 14.3 points and 4.7 rebounds per game and 17.9 points and 5.9 rebounds per 40 minutes.

Bird’s shooting efficiency took a hit as Cal’s offense turned to him more following the departure of Jaylen Brown.He ended his senior year with a field goal percentage of 43.9 percent and a three-point percentage of 36.3 percent compared to 46.3 percent and 40.9 percent as a junior, respectively.

Despite Bird’s decrease in his shooting across the board, the guard posted a career-high player efficiency rating of 16.5. He consistently improved his PER season after season, jumping from 14.5 as a freshman, 15.3 as a sophomore, 16.2 as a junior and the eventual 16.5. Bird also set a career-high by producing 331 points, besting his previous high of 300 in six less games.

Bird’s NBA prospects will largely depend on his ability to morph into a 3-and-D player of sorts. He has already proved himself to be a capable shooter from downtown, shooting 38.1 percent beyond the arc from his sophomore to senior seasons. Bird has done a majority of his damage as a spot-up shooter during his career at Cal, a trait which could potentially get his foot in the door.

For a shooter of his quality, Bird also possesses solid athleticism and has an ideal frame for a shooting guard, standing at 6’6” with a 6’7” wingspan. He’s consistently improved defensively since year one with the Bears and has notched career-highs in defensive win shares every season since sophomore year, from 0.5 to 0.7 to 1.3 to 1.6.

Should Bird add on additional weight — he’s currently listed a shade under 200 pounds — he’ll become an even more sought-after commodity.

Bird’s future stands more ambiguous than that of teammate Ivan Rabb, but with solid showings at pre-draft workouts, the former Bear may just hear his name called come draft day.

Justice delos Santos is the sports editor. Contact him at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @jdelossantos510