TBG Player Previews 2016-2017: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, guard/forward

2015-2016: 21.2 MPG, 5.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 0.6 BPG, .457 FG%, .286 3P%, .712 FT%, 29 G

Who is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson?

I wrote and re-wrote this section a few times, as I found myself on opposite ends of the hype spectrum. The first take was far too subdued and nitpicky as watchers of Brooklyn Nets basketball are wont to do. The second take was overly glowing, and more befitting of a player that had won — or at least seriously challenged for — Rookie of the Year. After an hour of bouncing between the two extremes, I finally decided to embrace the semi-hyperbolic:

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is the closest thing to a future star on the Nets’ current roster. He’s a 6’7″ athletic stud with blazing speed, a tremendous 7’2″ wingspan, and the ability to guard four positions on the court. He’s a taller version of Tony Allen; or, for those of you who can remember his time with the Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trail Blazers in lieu of his strange stint with the Nets, Gerald Wallace 2.0.

Or, at least, that’s what he could be.

2015-2016 Recap:

As you almost certainly know, Hollis-Jefferson spent the majority of 2015-2016 recovering from a broken ankle. The injury happened during practice on December 5th and we learned that he would require surgery on the 7th — and, honestly, that was the lowest, or at least most gut-wrenching, point of what was an all-around awful season.

The 23rd overall pick in the 2015 NBA Draft — who the Nets acquired in a draft day deal for Mason Plumlee — made an impact from the moment he stepped on the court, wreaking havoc on defense, crashing the boards, and soliciting giggles and head tilts with his incredibly awkward jump shot. It was no surprise that a player with his motor might suffer an unlucky injury, but it was still an abrupt, unwelcome pause in his rookie season.

The Nets eased him back into things when he returned in March, as he played in just 10 of the final 13 games at less than a 20 MPG clip. Hollis-Jefferson did not look as rusty as one might’ve expected, though, as he averaged 6.8 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 SPG, and 0.8 BPG on .421/.333/.773 shooting — and he got to the line a couple of times per game to boot!

It certainly wasn’t an ideal rookie season — but there were reasons to be excited nevertheless.

What does Hollis-Jefferson bring to the table?

Ridiculous athleticism and, potentially, game-changing defense.

The Ringer’s Jonathan Tjarks wrote a semi-ode to Hollis-Jefferson’s tools in September, and I highly recommend giving it a read. He nails what the 21 year-old brings to the table in a few sentences:

“At 6-foot-7 and 220 pounds, with a 7-foot-2 wingspan, Hollis-Jefferson is a physical marvel who tested out as one of the three fastest players at the 2015 draft combine. He is longer than most big men and faster than most guards. The Nets’ defensive rating was 8.2 points lower when he was on the floor (101.4) than when he was off (109.8), by far the best mark on the team, and they are going to give him every chance to translate that production into a bigger role next season.”

It may be a bit much to ask for him to be more than just a solid contributor on offense, but his jumper isn’t as broken as it looks. As an Arizona Wildcat, Hollis-Jefferson found success from mid-range and, in his rookie year, shot just under 64% from 10-15 feet and 41% from 16-23 feet. It was only 29 games, and the latter number is no great free throw line shimmy — but it’s something to build on.

His small sample size per-36 gives you a good idea of his abilities as well, posting an impressive line of 9.8 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 2.3 steals, and 0.9 blocks. That’s a veritable swiss army knife of a player and a borderline star when you factor in his defensive potential. Thanks to two years in the competitive PAC-12, he’s far more refined and accomplished than many players with his tools.

The Hollis-Jefferson Highlight Reel Theater:

Come for the athleticism and stay for the wonky-looking jump shot.

The Bottom Line:

If it wasn’t clear already, allow me to lay it out here — Hollis-Jefferson is my favorite player on the Nets, and one of my crushes in the league as a whole. I love players that blend high-energy with smart defense, and that’s the type of player that he’s capable of becoming as soon as this year (and he may well be there already). As a bonus, Hollis-Jefferson also seems like the type of athlete that Kenny Atkinson will work wonders with.

In 2016-2017, he should see minutes at shooting guard, small forward, and power forward, starring as the most exciting player on these somewhat mysterious Nets.

Prepare yourselves.

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