Who he is: an athletic 6’7″ rookie with the body (7’2″ wingspan) and mindset to make an impact on the defensive end.
How the Nets got him: In a draft day trade, the Nets shipped Mason Plumlee and their 2015 2nd round pick (Pat Connaughton) to the Portland Trail Blazers for the rights to Hollis-Jefferson and journeyman point guard Steve Blake. (Blake was flipped for Quincy Miller, who was subsequently waived.)
Strengths: Athleticism, speed, motor and rebounding.
Weaknesses: Jump shot, shot creation, off-the-dribble play.
Big Stat: 20%. The percentage of college threes Rondae Hollis-Jefferson buried at Arizona. No one doubts his motor and athleticism but many scouts glossed over the rookie fearing his offensive production would fail in today’s three-point heavy NBA.
2014-15 recap: Hollis-Jefferson played a pivotal role on the Wildcats, taking the team to its second straight Elite 8 appearance. For his efforts on the defensive end, he was voted first-team All-Pac-12, and was named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.
When Hollis-Jefferson announced his intentions to enter the NBA Draft, Arizona’s head coach Sean Miller remarked: “I don’t know if I’ve enjoyed coaching a player more than I’ve enjoyed coaching Rondae.”
2015-16 outlook: It’s tough to say how well he’ll do his rookie season. Rookies tend to struggle with foul trouble and the speed and savvy they find at the game’s highest level. Coach Lionel Hollins also has a reputation of keeping rookies on a short leash.
But with the exception of Jarrett Jack’s performance at the point, perhaps no other player will play a more pivotal role in the team’s success. If Hollis-Jefferson quickly becomes the defender who shuts down an opposing scorer and cleans up the team’s defensive miscues, the team could be far better off than expected.
What a good season for Hollis-Jefferson would look like: Hollis-Jefferson earns a spot in the rotation and becomes the type of player the Nets sorely need: the athletic, high-energy wing that defends a team’s best perimeter scorer and switches on to point guards and power forwards in a pinch. Chad Ford dubbed Hollis-Jefferson “the sleeper of the draft,” and with his mix of athleticism and height, Hollis-Jefferson can be a versatile defender that enables the Nets to improve on the defensive end and trot out some funky lineups.
What a bad season for Hollis-Jefferson would look like: The doubtful scouts are right and Hollis-Jefferson earns the label “lane-clogging wing.” His 20 percent three-point shooting in college gets worse in the pros, and he can’t create offense off the dribble. Lineups featuring Hollis-Jefferson send the Nets offense into a nosedive rendering him borderline unplayable.