By the end of his freshman season, Ivan Rabb had put himself in the best position possible to not only get drafted, but to be selected in the lottery along with teammate and eventual No. 3 overall pick Jaylen Brown.
Draft pundits widely considered Rabb worthy of a lottery selection in what was universally considered a weak draft following a 2015-16 campaign in which he averaged 12.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game en route to being named second-team All-Pac-12 and to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.
Instead of taking the one-and-done route in a similar manner to Brown, Rabb shocked many and decided to return to Cal for a second season, citing that he needed a second season of college ball to improve physically and mentally.
“That helped me with my mentality, just knowing how to prepare myself coming into this year, knowing what to do before games and knowing what to do before practice and after practice,” said Rabb to reporters following a workout with the Los Angeles Lakers. “Small stuff like that will help your longevity in the league. I feel like I really needed that year just to realize what I needed.”
A year and some change removed from his decision, Rabb’s stock has universally fallen in Mock Drafts as teams prepare for what is expected to be a star-studded class of 2017 featuring Markelle Fultz, Lonzo Ball and Josh Jackson, among others.
Rabb built upon his freshman season in his second go-around with the Bears, averaging 14.0 points and 10.5 rebounds per game to earn a spot on All-Pac-12 First Team, but his game didn’t make the expected leap.
The power forward saw an increase in his per game points and rebounding numbers, but this uptick can be attributed to an increased in minutes. Per 40 minutes, Rabb averaged 17.2 points, a nearly identical mark to his 17.5 points as a freshman, but recorded 12.8 rebounds per 40 as a sophomore compared to 11.9 rebounds per 40 as a freshman.
Rabb shot significantly worse during his sophomore campaign as his usage increased. Playing 3.9 more minutes per game and taking 2.4 more shots per game, his field goal percentage dropped 13.1 percent from 61.5 percent as a freshman, a percentage which ranked second in the Pac-12, to 48.4 percent as a sophomore.
Advanced stats did not favor Rabb in his second season with the Bears either as his true shooting percentage, effective field goal percentage, win shares and box plus/minus statistics all took a hit from his freshman to sophomore year.
From last season to present date, Rabb has slipped from a projected 2016 lottery pick to a late-first, early-second round 2017 selection.
DraftExpress considered Rabb a lottery pick in its first Mock Draft following his decision to play a second season, but the power forward’s stock slowly declined throughout the regular season. Rabb fell out of the lottery of DraftExpress’ Mock Drafts by midseason and out of the top 20 by season’s end.
The power forward bet on himself becoming a better overall player by deciding to stick around with Cal for a second season. It remains ambiguous whether Rabb’s decision will pay off in the long run, but from purely a draft stock perspective, his decision has already produced negative short-term ramifications.
A lower selection not only means a smaller rookie contract — No. 1 pick Ben Simmons will make approximately $12 million in his first two years compared to No. 30 pick Damian Jones’ $2.4 million — but a shorter leash. The front offices are far more likely to give a lottery pick the benefit of the doubt over a second-round selection.
Should Rabb slip to the second round of the draft, his long-term future with whichever team selects him will remain even questionable as the contracts for second-round picks are only two years in addition to being substantially less profitable.
Rabb will enter the league as an intriguing prospect who stands to benefit by playing outside of former Cal head coach Cuonzo Martin’s system. Martin shied away from adapting to a more modern style of basketball, resulting in an offense which saw Rabb in the post 38.4 percent of his total possessions, according to Synergy Sports Technology and the second slowest tempo in the Pac-12. Cal’s offense seldom ran the pick and roll as a mere 8.7 percent of Rabb’s possessions utilized him as the roll man, according to Synergy Sports Technology.
One of the strongest aspects of Rabb’s game is on the defensive glass. He had a defensive rebound percentage of 25.7 percent in his sophomore season. His rebounding habits should translate well as he consistently boxes out opponents which helps as he grabs rebounds in traffic.
The power forward’s mobility is a plus considering his frame, but he’ll need to add more weight, as 220 pounds won’t be enough both on the offensive and defensive ends. Rabb’s lack of strength was apparent in post play on both sides of the ball; should he wish to stick around in the league, the weight room will become his best friend over the next couple of summers.
Rabb’s potential to craft out himself a role in the NBA, unquestionably exists should he find himself in the right system, but only time will tell if he can evolve both his skillset and frame to stick around in the league for years to come.