Last year it was Kris Dunn at Providence. This year it’s California’s Ivan Rabb who takes the mantle of Highest Possible Draft Pick Instead Opting to Return to School. It’s a surprising decision, given Rabb could’ve been a lottery pick in what’s considered to be one of the weakest draft classes of the past 15 years.
Dunn’s stock a year ago was higher than Rabb’s is now, but at the time of both players’ decisions to return, many viewed them as lottery picks. (And Dunn, ultimately, made the right choice, as he’ll probably be a top five pick in June, which his higher than he would have gone a year ago.)
Fortunately for Rabb, his ceiling and talent are so good, he could be drafted higher after next season even though the 2017 draft is expected to be among the better ones of the past decade.
Rabb was projected anywhere from No. 12 to No. 20 by most reputable draft prognosticators. His former teammate, Jaylen Brown, is considered a likely top 10 pick.
Cal posted this tweet late Sunday night.
— Cal Men’s Basketball (@CalMensBBall) April 25, 2016
Cal also released this statement: “Ivan is an tremendous person and student-athlete to have on our team. He and his family have put a lot of thought into making a decision that was right for him. He is a talented basketball player with a very bright future, and we are excited to have Ivan continue as a member of our Cal basketball program.”
Rabb’s long and lanky, a really good — if slender — power forward type who’s built for the ever-changing philosophies of bigs in basketball. But also: He certainly needs to put on at least 10 pounds of muscle. Rabb will have a good chance at being an All-American next season. In his freshman year, as Cal went 23-11, Rabb averaged 12.5 points, 8.6 rebounds, 1.2 blocks and shot 62 percent. While Jaylen Brown made First Team All-Freshmen on many a national list, I thought Rabb was the more important, more consistent player for the Bears last season.
Heading into 2015-16, Cal was a chic pick to be a top-15 team. The Golden Bears fell short of that, but they did earn a No. 4 seed (and were felled by Hawaii in the first round of the NCAA Tournament). Next season? No guarantee Cal is a tournament team, but with Rabb in the mix, it can get there, absolutely. The Pac-12 will be interesting, as it almost always is. Arizona will be considered the favorite, then Oregon and UCLA, then USC, then put Cal right there with Colorado, Utah, Oregon State and Washington.
Given the new rules this year, which allow prospects to test the waters for longer periods to get — hopefully — truer evaluations on their NBA stock, it’s all the more shocking that a potential lottery pick wouldn’t even choose to go through that process. If the rules remain the same, it could be a long time before we see another situation like this. Rabb could be an outlier. It’s great for Cal coach Cuonzo Martin, who will have on the roster one of the 10 or 15 best players in college basketball as we head toward 2016-17.
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