Neither Ivan Rabb nor Jaylen Brown have declared for the NBA Draft

Neither Jaylen Brown nor Ivan Rabb have declared for the NBA Draft. Will they stay, or will they go? Why? We ask the questions that Brown and Rabb are asking themselves.

Today is March 31. The Final Four starts in two days.

The NBA Draft is 85 days away. There are three college freshmen expected to be taken in the NBA Draft Lottery – the top 14 picks – who have yet to declare for the NBA Draft. One is Duke’s Brandon Ingram.

The deadline is April 24. The withdrawal deadline is May 25. Underclassmen can return to school if they do not hire an agent.

As of today, Cheick DialloSkal LabissiereJamal MurrayBen SimmonsDejounte MurrayMalik Beasley and Marquese Chriss – all of the top freshmen, save Ingram, set to go in the top 14 picks of the NBA Draft -- have declared.

California's Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb have not.

Now, they could declare tomorrow, and this entire article will be moot. But, given how thoughtful each of these young men are – they both reached their decisions to attend Cal very late in the process a year ago – my money’s on them taking their time.

But, why? Why are Rabb and Brown – the top freshman duo in the nation – not bolting for the NBA, at least, not yet?

No one would blame them. The 2016 recruiting class is at this point a class of one – Dontae Coleman – after Tyson Jolly was released from his National Letter of Intent. The Bears were upset in the first round of the NCAA Tournament after earning the highest seed in program history. Cal has lost one top-recruiting assistant in Yann Hufnagel, due to sexual harassment allegations, and another – associate head coach Tracy Webster – is reportedly a candidate for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee job. Head coach Cuonzo Martin's actions are being reviewed in regards to his role in reporting Hufnagel’s sexual harassment. His contract has yet to be executed by the University, despite Martin and the Athletic Department having agreed on it, according to a source. There is seemingly no foothold, no cleat to tie off a ship that is being blown every which way.

But, Brown’s mother has her Master’s degree. There are, a source says, a whole lot more Master’s degree holders on that side of the family. It’s not a family that needs the instant millions a high NBA Draft pick would bring. And, remember, Brown plays chess, not checkers. He’s playing the long game.

Rabb’s family could use that instant influx of cash, but isn’t pushing him one way or another, a source close to the family said. Instead, Rabb is taking the same tack as he did when deciding between his top five at this time last year: He’s taking his time.

It’s the biggest sports conundrum in Bay Area sports right now: What will Rabb and Brown do? If not the biggest, it could certainly be the most impactful.

Consider: Given the Hufnagel dismissal due to sexual harassment, the University review of Martin’s actions in reporting the harassment, the delay in executing Martin’s contract, the perfect-storm ending to the season that saw point guard Tyrone Wallace break his hand before the team left for Spokane, Wash., and swing man Jabari Bird unable to go because of back spasms, the returns of Brown and Rabb would not only right the ship; it would send it steaming full-speed ahead. If Rabb and Brown decide to return, ultimately, reuniting a core that includes Bird, Jordan Mathews and Kameron Rooks, not to mention point guard Sam Singer, then this team could very well be the most dangerous team in college basketball.

The only loss would be Wallace. The Bears played without him plenty this past season, and didn’t look lost. In fact, Brown’s numbers during that stretch – when Wallace was either out due to injury, or was not in the starting lineup after returning from injury – were markedly better than his numbers after Wallace returned.

The big question, though, that Brown and those in his camp have to consider: Did he regress? Let's take a look at the numbers.

Did Brown Take a Step Back?

First 8 games of season 42.4%(39-for-92) 14.9 5.8 1.0 2.5
7 games before Tyrone Wallace injury 60.3% (41-for-68) 16.3 6.9 1.9 3.9
8 games with Sam Singer as the starting point guard 42.7% (47-for-110) 18.8 4.4 2.6 2.9
Final 8 games 31.6% (24-for-76) 10.1 5.0 2.1 3.25

Brown's points per game showed a continued upward trend, as did his assists per game, until Wallace returned. His shooting percentage also showed an increase, on the whole, before the re-introduction of Wallace to full-time point guard duty.

The statistical trajectory clearly shows a player finding himself, coming into his own and adjusting to the college game, and when Wallace went down, with a pass-first point at the helm, he really developed, blossomed even, but when Wallace came back, when another scorer entered the fray, the flow of the offense changed. Brown’s development stalled and even regressed.

I’m not blaming Wallace, because the team is clearly better with him than without him. But, I am saying that Singer may be the better point guard for a guy like Brown, and next year, he’ll be the one running the show. No, Wallace did not play in the first-round loss to Hawaii, and that game is included in this calculus, but his absence was sudden, and threw an already-questioning Brown into an even more awkward situation. In the midst of being his worst, he was asked to be his best, and he wasn’t able to do that.

Does that leave a bad taste in his mouth? Does it leave him wanting more, or does it make him want to get out of the college game and on to the NBA? Only Brown can answer that.

Right now, Brown occupies a lofty spot in most major mock drafts. CBS has Brown at No. 4, as do Hoops Hype, Draft Express and Kevin O'Connor's mock draft on Tankathon. USA TODAY has Brown going at No. 6. has Brown going at No. 9, behind Rabb at No. 8.

Now, some would say that Brown regressed during his Pac-12 Freshman of the Year campaign, that he didn’t get better under Martin. So, given that, why should he stay? He could leave school now, hire an agent and spend four to six hours a day in the lab, working on every part of his game, so that by the time the NBA Combine comes, he’ll hardly reflect the meek shadow of Jaylen Brown we saw over the final eight games of the season, and the uncertain whimper we saw out of him against Hawaii.

Or, he could return to a team helmed by a pass-first point guard, who, during his stint as the starter, got Brown the ball far more than Wallace did (witness his 110 shots over eight games).

With Wallace gone, Brown becomes much more of a focal point, allowing his game to develop and expand. 

Yes, returning means writing papers and going to class, and during the stretch where he was working on a 23-page final paper for his grad-level course, his assists, points per game and shooting percentage plummeted, and over the course of four games, he tallied 17 personal fouls.

The Ivan Rabb of It All

First 8 games 66.7% (38-for-57) 12.5 7.9 1.75 3.3
7 games before Tyrone Wallace injury 60.4% (32-for-53) 11.6 8.7 0.43 3.3
8 games with Sam Singer as the starting point guard 59.6% (34-for-57) 11.1 8.4 1.25 3.3
Final 8 games  72.1% (44-for-61) 14.5 8.5 1.0 2.9

Rabb most certainly did not regress, and in fact, over the final eight games of the season, he markedly improved. Singer, even in the preseason and in Australia, had to be exhorted to force-feed Rabb in the post, but beyond that, Rabb, his high school coach Lou Richie has told BearTerritory, had a hard time demanding the ball even when he pushed the issue with Rabb at Bishop O'Dowd. Over the final eight games of his freshman campaign, Rabb took a huge leap forward.

The question some may ask of Brown -- Why did you let him shoot? -- is reversed with Rabb, and that may be why NBA execs and coaches may be salivating perhaps more over him: Why didn't you let him shoot?

NBA coaches see a guy not shooting or not getting touches, and they think they can fix him, or use him better. Rabb is, after all, a 6-foot-11, 220-pound athletic and ambidextrous big man who's a rim protector and a rebounding machine. NBA coaches and personnel departments will certainly think that they can do something more with him. That's the attraction of a Rabb at this point. But, as with Jared Goff over on the football side, location is everything: Goff wouldn't want to go to a team with a terrible offensive line, and Rabb wouldn't want to go to a team where he'd have to play the five with regularity.

Towards the end of the year, we saw Rabb stretch out his range, even beyond the three-point line. That outside shot, and the mid-range jumper, could be improved with another year in college, and make him even more enticing, raising his stock in next year's draft.

One key for Rabb's decision making process is the question of size. Rabb saw remarkable gains in size and strength at the start of the season, and as the season went on, his weight dropped a bit, as he reached an equilibrium. Still, he's much bigger than he was in high school, and another year would get his starting point even higher. The biggest concerns for Rabb at the next level are his assertiveness and his ability to bang with full-grown men who will bully him in the paint. If he gets bullied early by bigger, stronger power forwards or centers in the paint, and he does not develop that mid-range jumper, and his shots are limited, his development could be stunted, and he may not reach his full potential, hurting his long-term earning potential. Towards the end of the season, Rabb finally found that switch. He finally started to demand the ball down low, and was at times able to joust with some of the best big men in the Pac-12.

As with Brown, another year in college, with a pass-first point guard, and without another shot-sink like Wallace, means that his touches should increase, again, giving him more of an opportunity to develop in a relatively safe-to-fail environment.

Another perspective to consider is Rabb's brand. He's the hometown hero who decided to play for the hometown team, a team that fell far short of expectations for a variety of reasons. Does Rabb want to leave a legacy in Berkeley? He already set the record for rebounds by a freshman in a season (his 291 were also seventh overall in school history). He tallied 11 double-doubles. He's tied for 10th in school history for single-season blocks (42). 

He could choose an agent, work out for teams and go through the process now, with a fairly strong guarantee that he'll be a lottery pick, but he'd be at the tail end of the top 14. CBS has Rabb projected as the No. 10 overall pick. USA TODAY has him at 11. Hoops Hype has him right at the border, at No. 14, and he's projected at No. 9 overall by Kevin O'Connor's mock draft on Tankathon has him at No. 8. The 2015-16 NBA Rookie scale has the first-year salary of the top five picks at $4.75 million (first overall), $4.35 million (second), $3.82 million (third), $3.44 million (fourth) and $3.12 million (fifth). By the time you get down to 8, 9, 10, 11 and 14, the first-year salary falls to $2.37 million (eighth), $2.18 million (ninth), $2.07 million (10th), $1.96 million (11th) and $1.68 million (14th). That's a big difference. So, he must do the math. Is just under $2.5 million worth it to come out now, or, could he spend time finding a prospective agent, and have the agent set up endorsement deals over the course of the next year, while he ups his draft stock, potentially, to that $3-5 million range. Also, remember that teams can pay up to 120% of the top-end number, or as little as 80%. That fact, too, must also factor in.

That additional year would allow him to build his brand as the hometown hero, the student, the multi-faceted power forward and, potentially, get back to the NCAA Tournament, and this time around, take care of business. Or, he could take the sure thing and get paid immediately, and not risk getting hurt or, perhaps worse for his personal brand, not even making the Tournament.

By staying, he could show NBA scouts the other parts of his game, the parts he's working on and developing -- like that three-point shot -- but he also runs the risk of showing them too much, and expose his weaknesses. At this point, given what Rabb did at the end of the season, he could be a very good value pick, even in the lottery, because there's so much potential there that he's shown even with at times limited touches.

Consider this: What would a Jerry West see when he looked at Rabb? He'd see promise. He'd see someone that his coaches could work with and mold. It's the same reason many NBA coaches of years past so coveted seven-footers: They may have looked gawky and awkward in college, but, boy, if professional coaches get him, they could work wonders, because, as they say, you can't teach seven feet.

You also can't teach 6-foot-11 with a three-point shot, silky touch around the rim and a nose for rebounds.

So, Rabb really can play this one of three ways:

Door 1: Declare now and find an agent.

Door 2: Don’t hire an agent, but know who your agent is going to be, so tell him to get you $100 million in endorsements between now and next year’s draft.

Door 3: Have a number. If you’re projected below that number, go. If you’re not, then don’t.

The Timeline

The NBA Draft Combine runs from May 11-15, coincidentally, right before final exams at Berkeley. If Brown and Rabb declare, but neither Rabb nor Brown hire agents, they can participate in the Combine, and then pull out, but that's going to require some creative scheduling when it comes to workouts and preparation, so that it does not interfere with classes.

Also, remember this: A new NCAA rule this year allows NBA teams to fly in underclassmen for individual or group workouts without compromising their eligibility. That opens up another strategy for both Brown and Rabb: They can work out with NBA teams, get a real gauge on where they would land, gauge the real interest and get even more data, all without hiring an agent, or declaring for the draft. 

A source close to both Rabb and Brown also had this interesting tidbit: They will very likely not make independent decisions, which is to say, if one goes, they both go, and if one stays, they both stay.

Of course, professors and academics will say another year in Berkeley will only benefit the pair, and will prepare them to manage their respective brands once they do make it to the professional ranks. Brown, who chose Berkeley for the academics, and has succeeded in that realm, certainly digs the atmosphere and the ability to expand his horizons. For Rabb, sources say that he loves being a college student, and loves Berkeley life.

Both Rabb and Brown have shown themselves mature beyond they years, and the adults in their lives are preaching patience, and careful consideration. From the perspectives of Brown and Rabb -- 19-year olds who are staring millions of dollars in the face -- it's certainly an enticing carrot. It's enough money to take care of them and their families, and if they make enough in endorsements, enough for the next few generations, as well. They would be wealthy and taken care of in the NBA, but, what if they're not prepared? They won't be able to get that first post-rookie deal, the deal where you make the real money, and their brands will have suffered to the point where they can't make an appreciable amount of money on endorsements.

What if a trusted advisor says that another year in Berkeley won't leave them any more prepared, anyway?

Questions, Questions

This year, Ben Simmons went to Louisiana State as the No. 1 overall player, and didn't even make the NCAA Tournament. It hasn't hurt his stock. He's still slated to be picked No. 1 overall in the NBA Draft.

One of the reasons Rabb and Brown could consider returning is getting another run at the Final Four. But, what if they don't get there? What if the Bears don't even make the Tournament? It's not a prediction, but it's something they have to consider. What would happen to their brand, and to their legacies if that happens?

What if they stay?

Best case scenario: Rabb and Brown return, better than ever, both prepared, both stronger and bigger and more mature. Rabb becomes more assertive in the low block, demanding touches, he develops his outside shot, and Brown polishes his jumper. Brown's assist numbers jump as he plays part-time at the point, and he more easily navigates the maze of fouls in the paint when driving. The pair lead the Bears to the Final Four, saving a program that a year prior was sinking, and cementing their place in program history, and earning them each top-five status in the 2017 NBA Draft. Their return serves as a bridge for a weak 2016 class, and the fact that they stay prompts the likes of Troy BrownBrandon McCoy and Charles O'Bannon Jr. to pull the trigger in 2017. They help secure Martin's place in Berkeley -- the coach who recruited both of them, and built strong, deep relationships with the pair in the process. 

Worst case (barring injury): Brown continues to turn the ball over, doesn't develop his jumper, Rabb doesn't demand his touches down low, but can't develop his outside and mid-range shots because the Bears need his presence in the paint, and Cal misses out on the Tournament. That hurts both of their draft stocks, and all of the sudden, Martin is on the hot seat, because in two straight years with two of the best players in the nation, they couldn't get to the Promised Land. With Rabb and Brown definitely leaving after another disappointing season, along with Mathews, Bird and Singer (all seniors at this point), the team is gutted, and with such limited success over Martin's three seasons, recruiting (especially with academic limitations imposed by the University) becomes increasingly difficult, and the program slides into irrelevance.

What if they leave now?

Best case scenario: Brown uses his strength, size, speed and athleticism and becomes an immediate impact player at the next level. Rabb goes to a team that doesn't need him to play the five, and has a point guard willing to force-feed him the ball on the blocks. He doesn't need to be assertive because he has a strong cast around him that allows him to mature, much like Allen Crabbe did with the Portland Trailblazers. 

Worst case scenario: Brown is forced to become the central focus of a moribund team's offense. Having not sanded off the rough edges of his game (turnovers, free throw shooting, jump shot, fouls in the paint), he becomes the best player on a bad team who is as frustrating to team management as he is to fans. He's got so much talent, but he's still raw, and his team can't afford to give him time to develop. Rabb is forced to play the five on a team that sees his frame and tries to put more pounds on him, but he's swallowed up by bigger, stronger, more physically-mature and aggressive big men. He can't score on the block, and because he didn't develop his mid-range jumper, he's pushed off the blocks and doesn't have the tools to make the adjustment. Like Brown, he's not allowed time to develop, and his brand -- and earnings -- suffer. Top Stories