The 2019 season was going to be a big one for Ivan Rabb. Rabb has played sparingly over the course of his first two seasons in the NBA, but finally started to get some decent playing time last year after the Grizzlies traded JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol at the deadline. His numbers weren’t flashy, but he showed enough promise and growth that 2019 could be the year he finally latched on as a role player on the Grizzlies.
That is until everything changed on June 20th.
The Grizzlies lucked into drafting Brandon Clarke with the 21st overall pick that night. Clarke, a top 5 prospect to some draft gurus, seemed like a perfect long-term front-court partner with Jaren Jackson Jr. once JJJ transitions to the center position in a few seasons. Drafting Clarke certainly raised some doubts about Rabb’s long-term future with the franchise, but most assumed he would still stick around for one more year.
Fast forward through the first 11 days of free agency and Rabb’s future in Memphis for next season is in serious doubt. The Grizzlies currently have 17 (not including the rumored Marko Guduric signing) players on their roster and will need to cut that number down to 15 prior to next season. Dwight Howard will be waived or traded to cut the number to 16, but unless Grizzlies EVP of Basketball Operations Zachary Kleiman has some more tricks up his sleeve Rabb is likely going to be the next domino to fall.
One of Rabb’s major flaws is that he lacks a true position in the NBA. He isn’t big enough to play center against most big men and he isn’t quick enough to guard a lot of power forwards, especially when teams go small. Miles Plumlee, acquired in the Chandler Parsons trade, is likely to be the Grizzlies emergency big to back up Jonas Valanciunas and JJJ should either one be injured or get into foul trouble. Plumlee’s ability to be a big body down low and get in the offenses way immediately makes him more valuable than Rabb. Having guys like Kyle Anderson, Jae Crowder, and Josh Jackson who can all play the power forward position, especially in small lineups, gives the Grizzlies added depth behind JJJ and Clarke while also making Rabb even more expendable.
Summer League hasn’t been too kind to Rabb either. He has struggled shooting the ball in both Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, shooting a combined 7-28 from the field and he hasn’t dominated overall like you’d expect a player going into his 3rd NBA season to. Meanwhile, Brandon Clarke has lit Grizzlies Twitter on fire. He’s been an efficient 11-21 from the field, with a handful of highlight reel dunks and blocks. Rabb had a chance to prove his worth to the Grizzlies in SLC and Vegas, but instead has been out-shined by the newcomer Clarke.
With the way the Grizzlies roster is shaping up, it would be difficult for Rabb to find minutes next season. As mentioned earlier, the Grizzlies will need to make more moves to get their roster size down to the 15 player maximum at the start of next season. As of now, Rabb’s contract for next season is partially guaranteed if he is waived by July 15th. With the roster crunch coming, and the chance to save money on a player who likely isn’t in the long-term future of the franchise, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if Rabb is cut over the coming weekend as the Vegas Summer League wraps up.
Rabb’s basketball career hasn’t gone quite like probably envisioned it. A potentially lottery pick in 2016, Rabb elected to go back to Cal for another season and subsequently fell to the 2nd round of the 2017 draft after a disappointing season. After spending the greater part of two seasons playing most of his basketball in Southaven due to a logjam of big men on the Grizzlies roster, it finally seemed like Ivan was going to get a chance to show his skills at the NBA level. Unfortunately for him, Clarke slid to the Grizzlies at #21 and has already jumped ahead of Rabb in the franchise’s future plans.
Rabb is smart enough and a good enough of a player to land somewhere, it just won’t be with the Memphis Grizzlies. His deal must be decided upon by July 15th.