If there’s one addition to this championship-winning roster (ooohhhh I’m going to enjoy typing that all season) that has me excited, it’s Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
Best word to describe you. “Fun”
There you have it, folks, the Raptors’ new Fun Guy!
RHJ has gone from 5-star recruit at Arizona, to hopeful saviour in Brooklyn, to underwhelming bench player, to Toronto, where he can hopefully combine those experiences and become a 5-star saviour for an underwhelming bench.
RHJ was highly recruited in high school — which is expected when you’re the star player of a program that wins two state titles — opting for Arizona over Florida and Syracuse. His basketball success transitioned smoothly into the next level, as he nabbed First Team All-PAC-12, PAC-12 All-Defensive, and PAC-12 All-Freshman honours over his two seasons with the Wildcats.
Hollis-Jefferson was drafted 23rd in the 2015 NBA Draft by Portland, then immediately flipped to Brooklyn, along with Steve Blake (remember him?), for Pat Connaughton and one of the many Plumlee brothers. The Nets were on the decline, having just completed a sub-.500 (but playoff!) season, and entering the post-KG/post-Deron era. Expectations for the team were low, but hopes were high for the Chester, PA native.
After three seasons of listless basketball and zero postseason appearances, Brooklyn returned to the playoffs last season. Not coincidentally, RHJ had his lowest minutes per game average, worst offensive season, and first campaign with a negative VORP. Kenny Atkinson figured out a winning formula — one that didn’t require Hollis-Jefferson’s skill set.
Through it all, RHJ was the consummate professional, fan favourite, and lovable teammate. He was the voice of reason in the locker room, lead dancer on the bench, and, in a somewhat poetic way, led the Nets to their most improbable comeback last season.
You’ve learned what it means to bet on yourself. You already understand the grind. The newest Raptor arrives equipped with a slogan of his own, a mantra that matches perfectly with this season’s roster, CHAP — calm, humble, and patient.
Role On The Team
Rondae has quite the toolkit at his disposal. He’s listed at 6’7” but, with a wingspan of 7’1”, he punches higher than his weight class. For a player his size, he’s quick, constantly moving, and loves to attack the rim. That energy will come in handy off the bench, as he should be able to fill the lane, work really well as a cutter for Marc Gasol or Kyle Lowry. While he has the ability to finish above the rim (and always looking to posterize opposing big men), RHJ has an underrated ability as a play-maker.
All that being said, Rondae prides himself as a defensive stopper. At every level he’s played, RHJ has been an elite defender — almost always covering the opponent’s best perimeter player. His switchability will fit in perfectly with Coach Nurse’s defensive game plans and can create a 76er-like all-length lineup alongside Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, and former Wildcat teammate, Stanley Johnson.
The term ‘development’ is used very loosely. Hollis-Jefferson needs to develop a shot. Period. Last season, Rondae shot a career-low 41.1 percent from the field (ouch), 64.5 percent from the line (UGH), and 18.4 percent from beyond the arc [passes out]. Toronto’s player development program is one of the best in the league. But Brooklyn’s isn’t too bad either. It’s no wonder RHJ’s shot chart looks like this.
Hollis-Jefferson is a crafty scorer who still figures to be productive on the offensive end. Just keep your expectations low if you see opponents packing the paint and daring Rondae to shoot.
RHJ is going to be a fan favourite on and off the court. He’ll work his way into Nurse’s 8-man rotation, fit in nicely when occasionally inserted into the starting lineup, and make a screensaver out of someone big (think Myles Turner or Rudy Gobert).