Brooklyn Nets: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s Big Opportunity

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 3: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson /

With teams in the NBA playing small ball, everyone is trying to find a long, athletic player that can play multiple positions. Good thing for the Brooklyn Nets, they already have him.

LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Giannis Antetokounmpo. Besides being three of the best players in the NBA, what else do they have in common? Length, athleticism, defensive prowess and the ability to play multiple positions at a high level.

All three do a little bit of everything for their team. They can run the offense, score, play defense and often take over games from start to finish. They are the prototype player for the modern NBA and the Nets have a player with that type of potential on the current team.

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Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was a draft day trade in the 2015 NBA Draft, a highly regarded one in NBA circles. His scouting report highlighted his exceptional defensive skill and freakish athleticism that he displayed at the University of Arizona.

The biggest knock on Hollis-Jefferson’s game was his offensive skillset. He came into the NBA with a shot that was “broken” and lacked the ability to create his own shot. Both things that he could improve on, so the Nets took a shot on him.

During his first two seasons, Hollis-Jefferson battled injuries and struggled to find his place in the Nets’ offense. He also experienced a coaching and position change in his short career, both which have worked to his benefit.

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When compared to the three players previously mentioned, it seems like there is no comparison. James, Leonard and Antetokounmpo are bonified studs, always mentioned among the league’s best players. But the skillsets are more similar than one may think.

All four of these players came into the league with raw offensive skill sets. Yes, even King James was raw. They had to develop consistent jump shots and often used their athleticism at the rim to score easy points. This is what we have seen from Hollis-Jefferson in the early stages of his career.

Hollis-Jefferson is in the process of developing a jumper that has gotten better each season. This season he is shooting 49.2% from the field, almost 6% better than least season. He is taking more outside and mid-range jumpers than he ever has, a product of head coach Kenny Atkinson‘s offense.

His touch at the rim has also improved and he is scoring at a better rate because of it. He has taken advantage of his athleticism and speed against slower power forwards that he is matched up against and scoring with ease. He is showing more aggression than in the past, but still needs to be more assertive.

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When star players see a lane open up, they drive with reckless abandon and look to throw down a highlight dunk on any defender that dares challenge them. Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t possess that killer edge yet. He is aggressive enough to drive the lane, but often pulls up short for a contested layup instead of an emphatic dunk.

This has a lot to do with the lack of muscle mass that Hollis-Jefferson has. Weighing in at officially 214 lbs, he lacks the size the aforementioned players have. This hurts his confidence when driving hard in the lane. He needs to work in the gym and get bigger to make these momentum changing dunks a reality.

The final thing Hollis-Jefferson needs to do is begin to demand the ball in clutch situations. Being the star of the team means that you want the ball in your hands when it matters the most. With no clear star left on the roster, it is up to someone to fill that role, why can’t it be him?

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Hollis-Jefferson has a chance to cement himself as the best player on the Nets. He must start to become a leader on the team through his play and start to demand the ball more often. If he can take over as the Nets’ unequivocal best player then it would help the franchise greatly during the rebuild.