The Toronto Raptors have gradually seen their playoff hopes for the 2020-21 season slip away, with the trade of Norman Powell the culmination of a very long streak of futility. One player who did not stick around for what has been a very disappointing year is power forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, who hasn’t suited up this season.
Hollis-Jefferson averaged 7.0 points and 4.7 rebounds for the Raptors last season, logging tons of playing time while using his unique blend of defense, physicality, and ability to finish at the rim off of penetration.
Despite the fact he could have been one of the main contributors on both ends of the floor this season, Masai Ujiri chose to swap him out with some cheaper players, bringing back Stanley Johnson while giving projects like DeAndre’ Bembry minutes that would’ve been allocated to RHJ. While the Raptors struggle, Hollis-Jefferson will try to chase a championship.
Hollis-Jefferson finally found himself on an NBA team, agreeing to join an old teammate in Powell on the Portland Trail Blazers. Rather than bringing him back, Toronto tried to replace him with a bunch of cheap alternatives, and that has cost them dearly.
The Toronto Raptors could’ve used Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Hollis-Jefferson, who once averaged 13.9 points per game with the Brooklyn Nets, is by no means a great shooter, but he is a solid ball-handler, impeccable finisher in the paint, and one of the most versatile defenders in the league, able to guard all five positions with some degree of success.
Letting Hollis-Jefferson, who wasn’t picked up by the Minnesota Timberwolves after a brief stint before the season, leave was a puzzling move from Ujiri, especially since the Raptors seem to value young players, versatility on defense, and players with a high motor that go all-out every single possession. Hollis-Jefferson checks all of those boxes, yet was not brought back.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson career stats
- 9.3 points per game
- 5.6 rebounds per game
- 1.9 assists per game
- 45% field goal percentage
Bembry showed some early promise, but he hasn’t been producing on the offensive end of late. Johnson is a complete non-factor on offense, and the former lottery pick has done little to rehabilitate his career.
Hollis-Jefferson, meanwhile, was more productive last year on offense than both of them despite his rep as a poor offensive player. Chris Boucher has been taxed to the point of exhaustion on the bench, and Hollis-Jefferson could’ve helped alleviate some of that pressure.
Would Hollis-Jefferson have fixed Toronto’s systemic defensive issues by himself? No. Would he completely patch over the Raptors’ rebounding issues? Partially, but not completely. However, a player with his skillset is sorely missed by the Raptors, and their hesitation with regards to bringing him back led to Portland snatching him up.
Ujiri is an amazing GM, but he botched this one.