The Toronto Raptors have some lesser-known players who can make impact
The NBA is returning in late July, and the Toronto Raptors will, of course, be included.
In a closed-campus environment, the defending champion Raptors will look to win a repeat NBA Championship in one of the strangest settings we’ve ever seen.
Unconventional is the calling card for the Raptors. Experts counted them out from the start of the season because of Kawhi Leonard leaving for the LA Clippers. The team fought back against all odds due to solid development, team chemistry, and quality defense. They won the Finals last year with box-and-one defense.
There are notable players. Pascal Siakam is having an even better year than his Most Improved Player of the Year Award season last year. Kyle Lowry looks great. Serge Ibaka is stepping up with Marc Gasol dealing with injuries all season long.
But the Raptors are defined by their role players. Each and every player top to bottom fights hard and loves to win. Teams will game plan for Siakam and Lowry. To an extent, Fred VanVleet and Ibaka as well.
These four players, though, won’t get as much attention in the film room from opposing teams, and that very well could pave a path for some of them to take a big step up in the postseason much like VanVleet did last year. They are potential “secret” tools for head coach Nick Nurse to weaponize at any time.
Raptors playoff secret weapons: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been a great force off the bench for the Raptors this year.
RHJ is limited in that his offensive game is barely existent and easy to shut down. While it’s not negligible, he has virtually no shot beyond the arc and averages a team 10th-best 13.5 points per 36 minutes this season.
Hollis-Jefferson goes to work on the defensive end and on the boards, though. Fifth on the team in rebounds per game, he is fourth in rebound percentage and third in offensive rebounding percentage.
Overall advanced stats don’t favor RHJ (he’s 9th in value over replacement) but even those point to his efforts on defense, where he posts a 1.5 defensive box plus/minus, 6th-best on the team.
RHJ is going to be a fringe-impact player in the playoffs just as he was in the regular season. He’ll be close to the end of the postseason rotation, but is still a player that may surprise opposing teams given the underrated and overlooked nature of his game.
A Thaddeus Young-like postseason role seems about right for Hollis-Jefferson.