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Memphis Grizzlies 2018-2019 Player Preview: Ivan Rabb

Can the second year product out of California crack the Grizzlies rotation?

NBA: New York Knicks at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

It is somewhat of a moral victory for Ivan Rabb that the Grizzlies decided to get rid of Deyonta Davis this past offseason. Rabb fits the “high IQ” identity the Grizzlies are creating for this team. Not known for his extreme athleticism, Rabb has relied on smart play and his long arms to get himself to the NBA.

Rabb also has a unique opportunity to get quality minutes for the Grizzlies this season. Marc Gasol is the only true center on the roster and depending on how J.B. Bickerstaff staggers the minutes for both JaMychal Green and Jaren Jackson Jr., Rabb should be able to get some run as a reserve.

2017-2018 Season in Review

Rabb had a surprisingly good campaign for the Grizzlies organization last season. For the G-League Memphis Hustle, Rabb averaged 15.2 points, 9.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.7 blocks per game over 18 games. For the Grizzlies, Rabb averaged 5.6 points and 4.4 rebounds in 36 appearances. When given the opportunity and minutes, Rabb was impressive. The most difficult part of the 2017-2018 season for Rabb was the inconsistency in his schedule. Other than spending the first 12 or so games with the Hustle, Rabb spent most of the season between the Grizzlies and Hustle which didn’t really allow him to get into a comfort zone.

Best Case Scenario

Marc Gasol is the only true center on the Grizzlies roster, at least until he hands the reigns of the franchise over to JJJ. The Grizzlies will likely go small-ball often, shifting either JaM or JJJ down to the center position. However, Rabb could get some minutes if any of those three get into foul trouble or injured. To be effective, Rabb will need to bulk up for the upcoming season since he’ll need to transition to being a center on this team. Rabb is a lean 6’10” and 220 lbs and got bullied down low in the NBA last year.

The best case scenario for Rabb would be where he holds his own in the minutes given to him and can be a reliable 4th big when he’s needed and can fill in admirably if there are any injuries. Rabb doesn’t need to come in and score a ton, but if he can impact the game defensively and make a few easy baskets around the rim he will allow the Grizzlies to ease JJJ into the league and also allow for Marc to get extra rest throughout the season.

Worst Case Scenario

The worst case scenario for the Grizzlies and Ivan Rabb begins with either Marc Gasol or JJJ getting injured for an extended period of time. For this scenario let’s say Rabb is still too lean for the center position and gets bullied down low in his extended minutes. This would almost force the Grizzlies to make a difficult roster decision like cutting Rabb or one of the young wing players in order to sign a true center to fill the void of an injured Marc or JJJ.

The signing of another center would also relegate Rabb to mostly Hustle duty. In this worse case scenario, Rabb struggles in Southaven too while Doral Moore continues to impress. Eventually, the Grizzlies could decide Moore is worth their investment more than Rabb and decide to cut Rabb in favor for Moore. If this all were to happen, Rabb would join the long list of failed Grizzlies draft prospects.

Overall Expectations

NBA: Summer League-Sacramento Kings at Memphis Grizzlies Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Ivan Rabb’s overall expectations likely align closely with his best case scenario. Rabb isn’t going to be asked to do much this season, as the Grizzlies will play more small-ball lineups that will have Rabb at the end of the bench. However, it’s realistic to expect Rabb to not be a negative in the minutes he is given. Rabb doesn’t turn 22 until February, so he’s not done growing. He may not be strong enough to hold his own against all the backup bigs in the NBA, but he should at least show some signs of getting bigger after his first full NBA offseason.

Rabb should have the expectations of your typical 4th big on an NBA team. He just needs to play relatively well in the minutes given to him to where the team doesn’t flat out stink with him on the court. With how smart he is, Rabb should be able to do that just fine.

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