Heading into this college basketball season, California was one of the most intriguing teams with their combination of experience, size, and talent throughout the roster. The team had everything you need to have a successful season. A mature backcourt of senior point guard Tyrone Wallace and sharpshooting juniors Jabari Bird and Jordan Mathews were back to lead the way. The team returned two sophomore 7-footers in Kameron Rooks and Kingsley Okoroh looking to take a leap in production.
But the story of their season thus far has been Ivan Rabb’s production and efficiency while being the Golden Bears’ best big. Rabb has been his best of late, coming up with two double-doubles against lowly mid-major Incarnate Word and a then-undefeated Saint Mary’s squad. Rabb has shown qualities that make him attractive as a top ten pick — a fluid and athletic big with a great mid-range jump shot.
— Logan Murdock (@logan_murdock) October 31, 2015
Rabb’s length and activity level on the offensive end help him finish 81.0 percent of his field goal attempts at the rim per shotanalytics.com. That shouldn’t be too surprising during the nonconference portion of California’s schedule, where Rabb is often easily the biggest player on the court. It’s Rabb’s in-between game that’s shown encouraging results early on, as he’s also shooting 50.0 percent of his mid range shots. Rabb’’s been hitting all around the paint and near the elbows, which bodes well for his translation to the next level.
Rabb has proved to be a valuable asset on the defensive end as well, using his quickness and timing to block 2.0 shots per game this season. With the NBA going smaller and smaller, Rabb looks like the ideal center prospect with his ability to stretch the defense a bit and have the agility and length to make an impact as a weak-side shot blocker. While Rabb has been a bright spot for the Golden Bears, freshman Jaylen Brown’s struggles have been evident throughout.
The 6-foot-7 freshman swingman hasn’t looked like a potential top three pick for California because of his struggles shooting thus far. Brown has shot just 25.0 percent from behind the arc and just 41.2 percent from the field. Brown has shot a putrid 15.2 percent on two-point jumpers per hoop-math.com, and this is an area he’ll need to improve to make it at the next level. Turnovers have also been an issue as Brown often gets tunnel vision when he has the ball (11 assists to 25 turnovers).
Obviously, Brown has all the physical tools in the world to play in the NBA, but there’s still a lot of work to do in refining his offensive skillset. Brown led Cal in fouls and turnovers through their first eight games, so there’s much learning to do on both ends of the floor. On the bright side, defensively he’s made a big impact with his hustle and in the transition game, and both are skills that will translate to the next level.
.@FCHWPO was straight 🔥🔥🔥 tonight!
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 10, 2015
Despite all these struggles, Brown’s reached double-figures in eight out of 10 games so far for the Golden Bears. He’s still averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per game on the season with all his inexperience, and there’s plenty of learning to do, especially for perimeter players adjusting to the college level. Brown still has the ability and upside to finish as a top-three pick in the 2016 draft, but right now he remains a work-in-progress with the Pac-12 regular season just about two weeks away.
But another big nonconference game remains at Virginia on December 22nd, so that will be a nice chance for both Rabb and Brown to show what they’ve learned against the unranked cupcakes they’ve played so far this season. It’s becoming more and more likely that both freshmen end up as top-ten picks in 2016, and it’ll only help if they can help lead this team to the NCAA tournament come March with the exposure they’d earn.