PLAYER TO WATCH FOR: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Standing tall at 6’7”, 215 lb, and a wingspan of 7’2”, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has a standing reach of 8’8”. Sounds like he should be on the Milwaukee Bucks, right? That organization seems to horde tall dudes with even longer arms. Well, in 2015, Portland drafted him with the 23rd overall pick and traded him to Brooklyn for Mason Plumlee. After a seemingly impressive start to his rookie campaign, Hollis-Jefferson suffered a fractured right ankle in December that required surgery, and was sidelined until late March.
RHJ had a lot of question marks regarding his offensive abilities when he got drafted, but one thing that warranted zero doubts was his NBA-ready body. His height and wingspan listed above are intriguing, and he possesses a frame that can withstand and support a continued building of muscle. His athleticism is the primary source of his supposedly high ceiling, and is what he’ll need to rely on for quite some time until his shooting mechanics and offensive fundamentals are polished.
RHJ averaged just above 20 minutes per game his rookie season, before and after his ankle injury. His scoring ability was inconsistent, although managing to shoot 45% from the floor. His sub-30% 3-point shooting is of concern, but 71% from the free throw line is pretty alright considering. How RHJ managed to get that much playing time as a rookie, however, is due to his mastery at the other end of the court. Hollis-Jefferson is a defensive juggernaut and is being utilized as such, always guarding the opposing team’s best perimeter player.
So how’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson doing this year? Other than his best game of the season so far, there’s really no need to share numbers because they just don’t do him enough justice, and that’s just the unfortunate truth of a defensive-minded player in the NBA. In a four point loss at home to the Charlotte Hornets on November 4, RHJ put up 11 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals, and zero turnovers in 32 minutes. Oh, and he also fouled out for the first and only time of his young career.
I was fortunate enough to actually catch a Nets game live at the Barclay’s Center already on October 31 vs the Bulls. I was so excited to wear my Richard Jefferson New Jersey Nets jersey that I completely forgot to wear an actual costume for Halloween, and I solemnly apologize. Yes, the Nets lost by 30, but it was particularly entertaining watching RHJ hold Dwyane Wade, a superstar past his prime but can still ball out, to 5 of 13 shooting and five forced turnovers. That’s the value that Hollis-Jefferson brings to Brooklyn.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the starting small forward on a Brooklyn Nets team that is already over-achieving. In eight games, they’ve beaten two playoff teams in the Indiana Pacers and the Detroit Pistons, and an up and coming Minnesota Timberwolves team full of young talent that many NBA analysts and fans expected to finally take that next big step. Credit first-year head coach, Kenny Atkinson, for this unexpected success, as he coaches a roster that could be mistaken for a D-League team, excluding Brook Lopez who is injury prone, and Jeremy Lin who is currently injured. What does this mean for RHJ? Tons of playing time and a great usage rate, combined with what already seems like quite an impressive coaching staff. As his skills continue to develop, expect Hollis-Jefferson to contribute rebounds, steals, blocks, and lockdown defense for the surprisingly competitive Brooklyn Nets.
I don’t see RHJ ever taking the reins of a team and becoming their leader to the promise land. I do, however, see him blossoming into an incredibly valuable role player that playoff contenders will probably attempt to trade for. Looking at you, Iman Shumpert and Thabo Sefolosha. Both Shump and Sefolosha are long athletic defenders for a playoff-caliber team who’s primary role is to disrupt the opposing team’s best perimeter player and knock down open shots. This comparison is contingent on Hollis-Jefferson figuring out how to knock down open shots.