As we all know the Brooklyn Nets made a draft day trade, sending Mason Plumlee and their second round pick to the Portland Trail Blazers for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Steve Blake. You can find information about this trade here.
The trade is questionable as you are trading a proven talent in Mason Plumlee for an unproven one in Hollis-Jefferson, but the Arizona product has the chance to excel at the next level, and that is what the Nets are banking on.
Hollis-Jefferson has been called the best wing defender in the draft and that is where he will make his biggest impact in Brooklyn. His game predicates on his length and athleticism. At 6’7 with a 7’2 wingspan Hollis-Jefferson has NBA size and uses that size to contest shots and disrupt passing lanes. He has a high motor and always gives 110% on the defensive end. Hollis-Jefferson is incredibly versatile on defense and matched up defensively with nearly every position at Arizona. In the NCAA Tournament Hollis-Jefferson guarded G D’Angelo Russell one game and big man Frank Kaminsky the next. Hollis-Jefferson sinks back when matched up against smaller, quicker guards but he is still able to contest shots utilizing his wingspan. His defense is probably the reason that the Nets traded for him in the first place, because Head Coach Lionel Hollins loves gritty players who give it their all on the defensive end.
If you watched any Arizona games this past season, you will notice Hollis-Jefferson is lethal in transition. A common occurrence in Arizona’s games was to see Hollis-Jefferson sky up for a rebound and immediately put the ball on the floor and take it coast to coast. Hollis-Jefferson is not afraid of contact at the rim and often draws fouls in transition. However at the line Hollis-Jefferson is poor only converting 71% of his chance at the charity stripe last season. As a small forward that number will need to improve if he wants to play in late game situations. While he can take the ball himself, Hollis-Jefferson can also fill the lanes on either side of the court and cut toward the basket, often ending in an alley-oop from his teammate.
Hollis-Jefferson uses his length and tenacity to excel as a rebounder even at only 6’7. Last season Hollis-Jefferson averaged 6.8 rpg and that is a very good number for someone who is 6’7. Hollis-Jefferson knows how to use his wingspan to reach over the top of some of his defenders and also using his vertical leap. While this was not likely the reason he was drafted, it is yet another way that Hollis-Jefferson will be able to contribute while he is on the floor.
Perimeter shooting is undoubtedly the weakest aspect on Hollis-Jefferson’s game. Hollis-Jefferson shot only 20% from behind the arc last season, and attempted only 10 3’s total. He is not confident about his outside stroke and his mechanics aren’t great. His left elbow sticks out and that should be corrected by the Nets. Hollis-Jefferson’s offensive game is mostly limited to transition as indicated above along with using his athleticism to explode to the rim. In the video below, you can see Hollis-Jefferson rise up and throw it down over a 7’6 big man.
Hollis-Jefferson’s offensive game needs work, but he is only 20-years-old and will have the ability to improve on the offensive end as he adapts to the NBA game.
Again, another issue on the offensive end, Hollis-Jefferson struggles to create for himself on offense. While he can at times, Hollis-Jefferson struggles to create his own offense in the half court setting and relies on his point guard to help him. That is something he will not be able to do in Brooklyn as the point guards are not exactly pass-first. Unlike when he is running the floor, Hollis-Jefferson looks tentative to drive to the basket and draw contact in half-court offense. He does not have a go-to move off the dribble and that is something he needs to develop.
Being compared to the Finals MVP is no small feat. However, Hollis-Jefferson and Iguodala’s games are very comparable. Both players are strong perimeter defenders and rely on their athleticism to create their offense. However up until this season, Iguodala had started every game he played in, and that can not be expected by Hollis-Jefferson from Day 1. However, if Hollis-Jefferson’s defense can make the jump for the NCAA to the NBA, and he can contribute on the offensive end, it is feasible to see him move into the starting lineup near the end of the season, similar to what Markel Brown did last season.