Pac-12 Player of the Year Debate: Dillon Brooks vs. Ivan RabbPosted by Mike Lemaire & Adam Butler on November 11th, 2016
It isn’t often that you see a reigning conference Player of the Year return to school and not be considered the favorite to win it again. But such is life when you play in the same conference as a talent like California’s Ivan Rabb. Oregon’s Dillon Brooks is still the likely favorite to win the award again, but Rabb is almost universally considered the better NBA prospect. To make matters even more complicated, Brooks is returning from a foot injury. While Oregon doesn’t seem overly concerned that its star junior will miss a significant amount of time, it remains unclear when he will be back so speculation will continue. I believe Brooks will be back sooner rather than later and he will quickly return to his spot atop the conference food chain. Adam likes Brooks too — he just likes Rabb better. Let’s make the case for both.
The Case for Dillon Brooks
It would be easy to just state plainly that Brooks is the reigning Pac-12 Player of the Year and thus should be the front-runner until proven otherwise. But it would be equally foolish to underestimate the development of a player as talented as Rabb, so let’s make the case for Brooks more thoroughly. The Toronto native is not the most efficient scorer, especially from downtown; he isn’t the best passer; he isn’t the perfect defender; and, he can disappear on the glass. But there isn’t any other player in the conference, Rabb included, who can claim to be above-average at all of those categories. Assuming he is healthy (and for now, at least, that is a big assumption), Brooks has a chance to rank among the top 10 in the Pac in scoring, assists, rebounding and steals. He has NBA size and athleticism, and if he can cut down on his turnovers and improve his shot selection, he could become a ruthlessly efficient and unstoppable offensive player. Rabb is without question a future lottery pick and almost certainly has the brighter NBA future, but he will never be able to stuff a stat sheet as completely as Brooks. He is the best player on the best team in the conference and his ability to create his own shot and guard multiple positions is the engine that powers Oregon. He should be able to improve on his numbers from last season and lead the Ducks to the conference crown. If he in fact does both, there will be nothing Rabb can do to stop the Brooks’ coronation ceremony.
The Case for Ivan Rabb
Let’s begin by recognizing the opportunity in front of Ivan Rabb. He’s playing for a coach who has consistently demonstrated that he is comfortable handing over his offense to talented individuals. Just last year, Ty Wallace and Jaylen Brown finished first and second in Pac-12 usage. And that was despite their inefficiencies! Alas, Rabb will more than likely (indubitably?) become that ball-dominant offensive player in the Martin system and he’s perhaps better suited to do it than any player he has coached before. His efficiency numbers were off the charts last season and, more often than not, it was in isolation. Just 35 percent of Rabb’s offense was assisted last season. For context, Ryan Anderson, Arizona’s power forward who had a similar offensive rating (117 for Anderson; 120 for Rabb), was assisted on 58 percent of his buckets. Rabb works alone. And as I have previously laid out, he’s going to have to. I’m not fully convinced his supporting staff is terrific, but this is about Rabb, who can get buckets with his back to the basket or from the elbow. He shot 80 percent at the rim (super high number) and 42 percent in the mid-range. Forget being a big man, that’s a fantastic mid-range shooting percentage for anyone. In summary, Rabb should win the Pac-12’s Player of the Year award because he’s both good enough and will have the opportunity to do so. The knock on him will be team success, which puts him at quite a disadvantage when you consider the rosters of Oregon, Arizona and UCLA. Not to mention USC and Colorado as well. But should the Bears break into a top three Pac-12 finish, Rabb should be a shoo-in for this award.