After some early-season struggles, Brooklyn Nets forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is defending like crazy and contributing at the other end more each game.
An offseason hip injury cost him much of training camp and all of the preseason and he then missed the first three games of the regular season — two after the birth of his son in mid-October.
When he returned, he was not the mid-range threat he developed into last season. Instead, he was struggling to make much of anything.
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But RHJ appears to have turned a corner over the last two games. He’s still not at hyper-efficient levels, but Hollis-Jefferson is doing enough on the offensive end while his defense is at a high level.
Hollis-Jefferson scored 11 points on 5-of-14 shooting while spending 36 minutes covering All-Star Kawhi Leonard in Friday night’s overtime win over the Toronto Raptors.
On Saturday, RHJ scored 20 points — one off his season-high — on 7-of-14 shooting to go with six rebounds, two steals and a block as the Nets beat the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden.
And that block …. wow!
After Hollis-Jefferson missed a pair of free throws with 40.3 seconds remaining, Allonzo Trier of the Knicks charged downcourt with the rebound. Brooklyn led by six at the time.
RHJ stayed in front of the lightning-quick rookie guard and just as Trier gathered to go up for the shot, Hollis-Jefferson swatted the ball away as he backpedaled across the end line.
And then, with moves that were more worthy of a Broadway dance production than an NBA game, Hollis-Jefferson avoided making contact with the ball while he was out of bounds. Trier made a futile stab at the orange, bouncing it off the end line, and the Nets were able to secure the win.
The most significant stat of the night for Hollis-Jefferson was 2-for-2. That was his mark from 3-point range, as he knocked down corner 3s from each side of the court in the first half.
He’s now 3-for-5 from deep over the last two games after making just 3-of-19 in his first 22 appearances of the season. If he can at least make himself a realistic threat to make that corner shot, his value to the Nets skyrockets.
As it is, RHJ can hinder the spacing on the floor, as defenders are giving him that jump shot from outside the arc. If he starts makign enough that defenses have to respect him as a realistic threat, that gives the Brooklyn offense that much more room to operate.
Hollis-Jefferson is now averaging 9.9 points and 5.9 rebounds in 23.8 minutes per game this season while his shooting is at .409/.250/.627.
After making his first four foul shots Saturday, he missed his last three attempts and his shooting at the line is well off the 76.7 percent he shot over his first three seasons, including a 78.8 percent mark last season.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson may not be all the way back to the player who averaged 13.9 points and 6.8 rebounds last season, but he’s well on his way and that can’t be anything but good for the Brooklyn Nets.