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Season in Review: Well hello there, Ivan Rabb

One season under his belt, Ivan Rabb showed glimpses of what he could be one day as an NBA player.

NBA: Memphis Grizzlies at Toronto Raptors Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Catch up on previous entries in our Season in Review series here.

Ivan Rabb

Season Points per game Rebounds per game FG% 3 Point FG% Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating PER Usage Wins shares per 48
Season Points per game Rebounds per game FG% 3 Point FG% Off. Rating Def. Rating Net Rating PER Usage Wins shares per 48
2017-2018 5.6 4.4 56.60% N/A 101 111.6 -10.6 16.6 17.70% 0.109
Stats from Basketball Reference
Brandon Conner, NBA.com

Ivan Rabb

After being drafted #35 in the 2017 NBA Draft, Ivan Rabb was a question mark coming out of California. He played two seasons at Cal before entering the draft. After a draft night trade with the Orlando Magic, Rabb ended up on the Memphis Grizzlies. He agreed to his three-year rookie scale deal, which locked him in with the team.

Early on in the season, Rabb did not show us much. He only played a few minutes a game, if at all, and did not earn any extraordinary merits from the fan base. He started his first game on January 24th, 2018 against the San Antonio Spurs. Jarell Martin and JaMychal Green were inactive, which gave Rabb the chance. He played a fine game scoring eight points and gathering six rebounds.

The 21-year-old finished the season out playing in 36 games. He averaged 5.5 points per game and 4.4 rebounds. This was spread out across a long season of games partially being played, as mentioned before.

Ivan Rabb showed more promised at the end of the season when he received the opportunity to play more. Unfortunately, it was not an ideal situation for the team, but Rabb latched on to this chance and used these NBA minutes for valuable experience. The development for him was a good sign to see going forward. His offensive game is unique to today’s league, but Rabb makes it work against solid NBA defenses.

In the last seven games of the season, his biggest stretch of consistent minutes played, Rabb averaged 10.3 points and 8.6 rebounds per game. That was all while shooting 52.6%. Those are impressive numbers. While we do have to take these performances with a grain of salt, Rabb was scoring consistently and more importantly getting the rebounds in the paint.

Without a huge resume of NBA minutes, Ivan Rabb is still a work in progress. He competes night to night and has a high motor which is important for someone his age. Also, his NBA IQ is something I have picked up on that will only mature. Hopefully, his defense can improve moving forward, but he looks to have the tools to at least be a competent role player in the future.

Best Game

Picking the best game for Rabb was tough because of the limited minutes on the court he was able to log. However, one game did stand out which the Grizzlies should have won if the team was not in a free fall. It was the night against Sacramento at home which was the fourth to last game on the schedule this year. The Grizzlies lost by one, but Rabb played the most minutes (31 minutes) he logged all season long. Rabb scored 12 points and had 11 rebounds (3 offensive) in that one.

At the end of the game, he made four out of four clutch free throws when the game mattered. Even if you think an April game against the Kings should not matter, it does to the players, so the intensity was high. He took the pressure in and converted when it mattered. He had an offensive rating of 130 and a defensive rating of 94 in the game. That is a solid night, especially when you had his career high in minutes.

NBA: San Antonio Spurs at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Worst Moment

I really wouldn’t say Ivan Rabb had a specific worst moment. It all kind of builds into the next section on the things to improve. Because of his youth and inexperience, he had times where he looked completely lost and dejected on the court. He did not have the NBA miles to find his way on the court. The Grizzlies season this year was actually a positive for his development.

Rabb still needs to build on a good amount of NBA traits before he can be touted as a consistent league level player. It will take time. Luckily Rabb has the drive to get to that next level.

Things To Improve

There are two things that he needs to focus on this offseason: his defense and a three-point shot. First, his defense was lacking most of this season. He did not have a chance guarding bigger players in the post. Now, the unfortunate thing is, most players are bigger than him down in the paint. He is listed as 220, but I would say that’s more around the 200 range. When bigger post players body him up for rebounds, he goes flying.

In this clip, it is a combination of Joel Embiid just being a freak show, but also Rabb not being able to stand his ground in the paint. Embiid is holding Rabb back with just his forearm while McLemore (…sigh) is just clogging space. After Embiid gathers the offensive board, Rabb then fouls him for a bucket plus the foul.

His defense isn’t only him getting bodied in the paint. There are multiple times when he falls asleep switching on simple screen and rolls which result in easy buckets for the other team. He struggled with this specifically in the last game of the year against the Thunder. He ended that game with a 131 defensive rating, yikes.

Secondly, he needs to develop a three-point shot. He attempted zero three-pointers all season long. Now, I would not say this to a Deyonta Davis type because all he does is have layups and dunks. Rabb, however, has a unique offensive where he has a crisp jumper. He shot 48.3% from 10ft-24ft which is a solid number for a mid-range game. It is one very unique thing about his game to see how it develops. My advice to him would be to take a few steps back and let them fly. See if you can turn it into a three-point stroke. It will help space the floor more which is critical in today’s game.

Overall Season Grade

All in all, Ivan Rabb had a pretty quiet start to his career. He came in slow not getting much of a chance with a clogged frontcourt, and then as the season faded away he got a bigger opportunity with a group of fringe NBA guys.

Next season, it will be all about growth for him. He will have a full offseason to train at the NBA level with facilities for him 24/7. It will be a great test for his mental will to see him strive for the next jump in his career. The intangibles are there for Rabb, it is just him grabbing ahold of them and continuing to build.

Rabb’s positives are his smooth jump shot (also an underrated 80% free throw shooter) and his basketball IQ. He makes off ball plays that are not recorded on the stat sheet, but it just goes to the betterment of the team. If he can continue to rebound at the level at the end of the season, especially offensive rebounds, that will be one of his greatest assets.

On the other side, his defense is still cause for concern. It was a big shock for him coming into the league, and hopefully, with a season under his belt, he can adjust the pace and speed of the league. Plus, my recommendation would be to step back and take threes next season. It will only add another threat to the game.

Grizzlies fans should be excited about Ivan Rabb going into next year. If he develops and learns the league, he can turn into a reliable power forward with a smooth jumper.

GRADE: C+

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