The Daily Californian asked writers to give their thoughts on Cal’s current alumni in the NBA. These are their responses.
Thoughts on Jaylen Brown?
Harshil Desai: Athletic wings who struggle with their outside shot have become the new big thing in recent drafts. Their ceilings are inherently higher than “safer” picks, they can have a high defensive impact, and anyone can learn how to shoot. Unfortunately, for every Kawhi Leonard and Giannis Antetokounmpo there are more Michael Kidd-Gilchrists and Justise Winslows. Brown is doing his best to convince everyone that he belongs in the same class as Leonard and Antetokounmpo. Brown’s high-level defense and rapidly improving jumper have made him into a future two-way stud. Boston reached two years ago when they selected Brown at the No. 3 pick, but looking at all their young talent now, they may have just struck gold.
Vikram Muller: Many Boston Celtics fans felt uneasy when Avery Bradley was dealt to the Detroit Pistons this offseason, believing the 2016 First-Team All-Defense perimeter defender would be irreplaceable. This sentiment was only exacerbated with the departure of Jae Crowder some weeks later, but enter Brown to save the day. The former Cal man has been nothing short of brilliant this season. He is averaging 15 points and 6 rebounds on 45 percent shooting, but it’s his defensive versatility and ability to cover a wide range of matchups on the wing that has propelled the Celtics to the league’s best defense and best record.
Dev Navani: After an uneventful and slightly underwhelming rookie season, Brown has evolved into a quality NBA starter on both ends of the floor with increasing All-Star potential. Although he has shown some amazing finishes, he is still struggling to convert at the rim (59 percent this season, down from 64 percent last year). We have seen improvement on the three ball, up seven percentage points from last season to 41 percent. Brown and Jayson Tatum will be among the best NBA wing duos for years to come in Boston.
Can Sariöz: It’s impossible not to acknowledge Brown’s rise in his second year in NBA. Last year, he was more of a defense-first player, but this year he is emerging to be a prominent weapon on both ends of the floor for head coach Brad Stevens. Celtics fans must be happy with him rising to the occasion after Gordon Hayward’s terrifying injury. Brown’s playing time and responsibility increased substantially, and he continued to build confidence following his hot start in the beginning of the season. The question now is determining his ceiling.
Thoughts on Allen Crabbe?
HD: Crabbe can shoot 3-pointers — there’s really not anything else that can be said about him. Luckily for Crabbe, having a 3-point shot is all you need to survive in today’s NBA. Traded to the Brooklyn Nets as a salary dump by the Portland Trail Blazers, Crabbe has thrived as a sixth man. On an injury-riddled Nets team, the spacing that Crabbe provides is especially invaluable for head coach Kenny Atkinson’s modern pace and space lineups.
VM: When you get traded to the Brooklyn Nets in 2017, odds are your career will take a weird turn. If you’re pre-injury D’Angelo Russell, that turn could be a significant increase in production in the same amount of minutes. For Crabbe, however, the turn has been a drop relative to last season. His points are up marginally from his last year with the Portland Trail Blazers, but his efficiency has suffered with the increase in shot volume without a major change in playing time.
DN: Crabbe was traded to the Brooklyn Nets this summer, but he is largely the same player he was in Portland. He has been taking more threes (60 percent of his field goal attempts), but he is converting them at a clip of 41 percent — three percentage points down from last season. One thing you shouldn’t count on Crabbe for is his defense; he owns the third-worst defensive box plus-minus among the Nets’ rotation players. Aside from his elite shooting, he simply does not offer much.
CS: When the Nets traded for Crabbe this offseason, I would assume they were envisioning him to take on more of a leadership role on the squad and a leap in performance with a starting role. The last two seasons, he was productive and very consistent, but he failed to earn a starting spot in Portland with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum. This season, however, he has failed thus far to fulfill the high expectations in Brooklyn so far. His performance has only slightly improved from last year. I think one of the reasons is the injuries of Jeremy Lin and Russell, as Crabbe would have shined more with them setting up shots for him.
Thoughts on Ryan Anderson?
HD: “Shooters shoot” might as well be the new catchphrase for the Houston Rockets. Anderson, a poor man’s Dirk Nowitzki, is the ultimate floor spacer at the four position for the Rockets. What makes Anderson especially valuable is the fact that he is a regular threat to chuck from 25 to 30 feet — and swish it in your face. Anderson may not be the Carmelo Anthony that the Rockets wanted, but looking at the clown show that is the Oklahoma City Thunder now, the Rockets are much better off with the low-maintenance (and extremely effective) Anderson.
VM: Anderson is, well … Anderson. He fit in well with the Rockets’ fast-paced, 3-pointer-heavy offense last season, and it’s much the same this season. His increased field goal percentage on fewer shots is likely a product of the Chris Paul trade, and Anderson seems to have solidified his niche on the team (as well as the league). Playing the four as a smaller player and an outside shooter can often be a tough competition for minutes, but Anderson continues to be a respectable big/swingman hybrid.
DN: A significant part of James Harden’s magnificent 2016-17 season was the extreme spacing that Anderson provided, daring defenders to guard him from three or four steps behind the three-point line. He is even more locked in this year and has focused almost exclusively on threes, which account for 78 percent of his shot attempts, shooting 41 percent from behind the arc. Like Crabbe, Anderson is about as useful a rim protector as a refrigerator, but he is a perfect offensive complement to Harden’s game. The $20 million per year he is still owed for three more years, however, is starting to become frightening.
CS: Anderson’s scoring numbers has dropped since he joined Rockets, but it’s hard to imagine he has any discomfort playing in Houston. He is a textbook stretch four, and he fits directly into Mike D’Antoni’s system. Anderson is taking his most threes per game since 2013-14 and has become a consistent starter on a championship contender team. This year, so far, is the exact replica of last year, plus the increase in his efficiency. I would assume Anderson would love to stick around D’Antoni for the rest of his career.
Thoughts on Ivan Rabb?
HD: Ivan Rabb is the poster child for the dangers of not declaring early for the NBA draft. Considered a first-round lock after his first year at Cal, Rabb opted in to return for a lackluster sophomore year. Rabb was picked up in the second round and currently plays for the Memphis Grizzlies — “plays” is a generous term here as Rabb has yet to log more than one minute on an NBA court. Rabb still could exceed expectations as a second-round pick, but for now he’ll have to settle for playing time in the G-League until he hopes to make an impact at the next level.
VM: The Memphis Grizzlies franchise seems to be in complete disarray after the recent double-digit losing streak and the firing of head coach David Fizdale, but the only promising thing about the change in leadership might be an upward turn for Ivan Rabb, who has logged one glorious NBA minute this season and has spent most of his time with the Grizzlies’ G-League affiliate. While Dillon Brooks, a later 2017 draft pick, has carved out 14 starts in 22 games, Rabb continues to play the waiting game. Yikes.
DN: Rabb has been in and out of the G-League, averaging 17.6 points per game for the Memphis Hustle, the Grizzlies’ G-League affiliate. He has shown nice defensive instincts and touch around the rim and was recently re-called up to the Grizzlies. The 20-year-old will likely not see much NBA playing time this year. His thin frame would not allow him to score the way he does in the G-League against NBA physicality, but he remains an intriguing young prospect for Memphis who deserves a chance.
CS: For me, it’s hard to comment on Ivan Rabb as he’s barely played. So far, he has failed to earn a spot in the Grizzlies rotation and has played only one minute. He has spent most of this season in the G-League and it’s not really a good sign that he couldn’t make a jump to the roster during the Grizzlies’ losing streak. Cal fans can hope he will stay in the mix and get a chance to play at some point in this season.
Contact Daily Cal Sports at [email protected].