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Cal Sports Monday Thoughts: Ivan Rabb stays, Jaylen Brown and Hardy Nickerson go

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How do the draft and transfer decisions of each player impact Cal's chances on the field/court next year?

Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports

Ivan Rabb stays, Jaylen Brown declares for the draft

Ever since Cal landed two 5-star recruits, we spent almost as much time wondering if either recruit would spend another year on campus as we did enjoying their play on the court. While I'd still argue that we've entered the one-and-done era of Cal basketball (even if we've missed out on a couple of potential one-and-done prospects) I'm beyond thrilled that Ivan Rabb has decided to buck a trend that is college basketball–wide. Likely lottery picks simply don't go back to school, but we're lucky enough to have the one that did.

You could have long debates about which player would have been better next year within the context of Cal's scheme and personnel. But I don't think you can argue against the idea that Ivan Rabb is critical because he plays a position that Cal doesn't necessarily have an obvious replacement. Here's one man's guess at next year's rotation:

PG: Sam Singer, 25 minutes ; Coleman/Chauca/Grad Transfer TBD, 15 minutes
G: Jordan Mathews, 30 minutes ; Coleman/Grad Transfer TBD, 10 minutes
G: Jabari Bird, 30 minutes ; Stephen Domingo/Roger Moute a Bidias 10 minutes
F: Ivan Rabb, 30-35 minutes ; Roman Davis, 5-10 minutes
C: Kameron Rooks, 25 minutes ; Kingsley Okoroh, 15 minutes

The starting lineup is set and looks excellent, with 5 experienced players who know their roles. The bench will be the big question mark, but Ivan's return should make Cal a wildly attractive destination for a grad transfer combo guard to come in and play 20–25 minutes. I think I'd personally like to see Grant Mullins and his point-guard-with-excellent-shooting-stats come to Berkeley, but keeping track of every single one of Cal's transfer targets is difficult.

CGB will have more looking back at Jaylen's only year. For now, I'll just say that I'll miss watching the single most thrilling athlete I've ever seen play Cal basketball.


Hardy Nickerson transfers, and Cal's defensive outlook gets tough

I received some (justified) criticism for my pessimistic reaction to the news that Hardy Nickerson will be transferring to Illinois. It's true—Hardy Nickerson, by himself, isn't an irreplaceable player. But his loss has to be considered within the context of the rest of the defense. If you had asked me to rank the most impactful players on Cal's defense last year, I would have given you something like this:

1. Damariay Drew
2. Kyle Kragen
3. Hardy Nickerson
4. Darius White
5. Stefan McClure
6. Darius Allensworth
7. Jalen Jefferson
8. Cameron Walker

I'm sure you could quibble with the order, and maybe add or remove a player or two, but you get the idea. Kragen, McClure, Jefferson, and White all graduated. Drew has suffered a knee injury that could cost him some or all of the 2016 season. Nickerson has now transferred. Simply speaking, Cal is running low on players who have already proven that they can be consistent contributors.

Nickerson played a huge number of snaps and his 112 tackles were about 50 more than any other Bear. He's been criticized for his lack of top end speed, which is fair. But he's also a reliable tackler who tends to be in the right place at the right time. The fact that Cal relied on his presence in the middle of the defense says something about how easy it will be to replace his production.

Does all of this attrition mean that Cal's defense is destined to backslide from the 2015 unit that was still firmly in the bottom half of the Pac-12? Not necessarily. There are exciting young players who will be forced to play early and often. We will quickly find out how successful Cal's recruiting and development efforts have been on the defensive side of the ball. But it's hard to maintain much optimism when Cal continues to lose players that are known positive quantities.

On a different note . . .

I kinda understood why people wouldn't react well to Brennan Scarlet's transfer, considering his destination. And I'm totally bummed that a projected starting linebacker is leaving because it materially decreases Cal's chances to win games, and when Cal wins I'm happy.

But the way a certain segment of Cal's fan base reaction to Hardy Nickerson's transfer really shocked me. I'm blown away that players are still getting criticism for acting in their own self-interest when 1) they are participating in a recreational sport that doesn't (shouldn't?) actually matter, and 2) the industry continues to sign absurdly lucrative contracts for TV rights and apparel (timely!) that won't be going to the pockets of the actual players that produce most of said revenue*.

Like, people don't get criticized for changing jobs when a more attractive offer comes along, and jobs tend to be more important than college sports, right? Yet people are actually acting like the graduate-transfer rule is a problem that needs to be fixed.

*In case you were wondering where exactly all that extra money goes . . .

Cal signs a new apparel contract with Under Armour

Cal sports will continue to play in uniforms, and some people will like those uniforms. Other people will not like those uniforms! Opinions will be stated, and forcefully, regarding the perceived quality of Cal uniforms!

Can you tell that sports fashion isn't really my thing? Under Armour seems fine. What I'm more interested in is the $$$*. I don't really want to care about the $$$ either, but until Cal's debt service for the Memorial retrofit gets paid down a little more we don't have much choice. So, the question is how Cal's new apparel deal stacks up with their peers.

From an Arizona Republic article in late 2014, here are some Pac-12 annual values:

UCLA (Adidas) $7,500,000
Arizona State (Adidas) $4,225,000
California (Under Armour) $3,500,000
Washington (Nike) $3,360,000
Oregon (Nike) $2,985,000.
Utah (Under Armour) $2,416,000.
Arizona (Nike) $2,200,000
Oregon State (Nike) $2,147,000.
Colorado (Nike) $2,115,000.
California (Nike) $1,950,000.
Washington State (Nike) $1,525,000

Not surprisingly, USC and Stanford (both Nike) aren't listed because they're private schools who don't have to tell us anything. It's probably a safe guess that USC is somewhere in UCLA's vicinity and Stanford is somewhere below Cal.

If you take the numbers above at face value, then Cal has made a big jump relative to their peers, and has a decently valuable contract for a program that isn't a blue blood power in either football or basketball. It's worth noting that the actual money that comes out of these deals can vary depending on the terms of the contract, so I wouldn't take the numbers above at face value.

Also, Cal is one of just four Pac-12 schools not under the Nike umbrella, so at least we're a little bit unique.

*Did I just write this sentence a couple paragraphs after criticizing college sports for making crazy amounts of money and not giving it to the people that actually produce said money? Yes, I am a part of the problem. Sigh.