Should Ivan Rabb Slide?
The 6’11 forward from Cal declared for the NBA draft after his sophomore season. While he looked to be a surefire lottery pick in the 2016 NBA draft, he decided to come back to Cal for another year. Now, he’s slated to be a mid to late first round pick in the 2017 draft. In 2016–2017 he averaged 14 PPG, shot 48.4% from the field and 40% from 3 on limited attempts. He shot 66.3% from the FT line, averaged 10.5 rebounds, 1 block, 1.5 assists, and 0.7 steals per game. He was a 2017 All-Pac 12 Conference first-team selection.
Rabb boasts great instincts on the glass, hands, bounce, footwork, length, and a strong mentality but there are some questions to be had about his stroke and if he can fit in the NBA defensively where there are questions concerning his ability to play defense on the perimeter.
Let’s take a brief analytical dive into Rabb’s offensive game.
Rabb is extremely successful when he cuts to the basket. On 45 possessions cutting to the rim he scored 73 points, netting him a very effective 1.622 PPP. On 64 possessions, Rabb’s offense came from offensive rebound put backs where he scores a solid 1.219 PPP.
Where Rabb isn’t prolific but shows promise is in post-up situations. On 181 possessions, Rabb only managed 136 points putting him at .751 PPP. He regressed in this area as he averaged .872 PPP as a freshman. While this number is underwhelming, Rabb has shown good footwork to get to the basket. His 18.8% TO rate in post ups could be concerning. However, it is important to note Rabb was not playing with great guard distributors and played in a Cuonzo Martin offense notorious for low eFG% that at many times failed to create proper spacing as Rabb had to share the floor with 7 footer Kingsley Okoroh. Rabb was also consistently double teamed in the post as he was one of Cal’s top two scoring options this season (He also showed an ability to make strong passes out of double teams). He will have more room to operate in the NBA and his usage rate will decrease as he won’t be as big of a focal point on offense.
If you have watched Rabb play you know he can run the floor even though Cal played the vast majority of their possessions in the half court. According to KenPom, Cal was 289th in Adjusted Tempo in the country and 11th out of 12 teams in the Pac 12. Rabb scored 1.429 PPP in transition on a very small sample size. Rabb was exciting when he could make plays on defense and then run the floor to create scoring opportunities. He will have more opportunities to do so in the NBA.
We don’t know what he is as a jump shooter. Rabb shoots 37.9% on jumpers. In 58 possessions, he scored 52 points for .897 PPP. Cal’s offense is not predicated on Rabb’s shooting abilities but it is likely he will need to continue improving as a jump shooter after he made strides this year. Rabb’s NBA success most likely hinges on his ability to consistently knock down jump shots and 3 pointers.
Here is a look at Rabb’s shot chart from this season:
Rabb has the ability to be a good defender. He reads the offense well, knows when to rotate and knows how to operate in space. He struggles when he has to step out and defend on the perimeter or in isolation. Players averaged 1.059 PPP on jump shots when they had Rabb in isolation. This is one of Rabb’s biggest concerns going forward.
While he is decent in the post, he is sometimes overpowered because of his thin frame. He probably won’t be the guy to anchor your defense around because of this but with a 3.7 BLK% he is capable of blocking and altering shots at the rim with his impressive 7’2 wingspan and 9’1 standing reach. Defensively in the NBA, he will have to come out and defend the perimeter as he won’t be a team’s 5 unless they are going small. He will probably have to put on more weight if he is to play any 5, but the footwork and instincts are there and he makes smart decisions while anticipating his opponents well.
Rabb shows impressive skills on defense, none more than rebounding. His 25.7 Defensive Rebound Percentage was good for 2nd in the Pac 12 this year. This was an improvement over his 20.2 DRB% as a freshman. Rabb’s 2.5 defensive win shares placed him 2nd in the Pac 12 as well. Something that may be underrated in Rabb’s game is the energy that he brings on both sides of the ball. It lends well for his future as Rabb was a solid on ball defender in college but shows promise as a help defender as well.
Rabb will probably be a mid to late first round pick but could fall into the early 2nd round. He needs to expand on his game and work more outside of the post but his 3 point shot has potential signs for positive development. He made eight 3 pointers on twenty attempts after only taking two 3s as a freshman.
Rabb will most likely struggle to get minutes in his rookie season but if given the opportunity to be in a rotation, he will probably show to be capable as a defensive rebounder and should be able to work above the rim on offense. He could slide in the draft as Cal struggled this year and failed to attain an at large bid in the NCAA tournament. We never saw Rabb reach his potential in college as he played in an uninspired offense with a head coach that couldn’t do much with top prospects like Rabb and Jaylen Brown (great recruiter, ahem Michael Porter Jr. — offensive coach? not so much). He shouldn’t drop out of the first round and should be able to get his stock back up again through the pre-draft process if he can show he can shoot. He is a positive person with a great reputation and he will be remembered at Cal as a great player who brought a lot of energy to the court. If Rabb does slide he will be a value pick for a team that wants to take a chance on a high energy, unselfish player with untapped potential.