Despite being the only team in the NBA with single-digit wins, the Brooklyn Nets have one thing going for them.
Yes, there’s something that the 8-30 Nets bring to the table. His name is Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the 22-year-old with an entirely broken jump shot, boundless energy and a smile that is the brightest part of this dreadful season.
Fortunately for him, there’s more to being an NBA player than a jumper, and he’s able to make plays that actually make you say “wow!” once in a while. Even ESPN’s Zach Lowe enjoys watching Hollis-Jefferson, and he made sure to note that the Nets are open to listening to offers for him.
RHJ has a value in the market. His offensive numbers are frightening — among the worst in the NBA — but his potential as a defender is too good to ignore, and it gets lost in the profound struggles Brooklyn is having on that end of the floor.
As a one-on-one defender, Hollis-Jefferson can guard three positions at least. If Kenny Atkinson is feeling adventurous, he could match him up against the opposing team’s point guard. Naturally, he’s best suited against a small forward but can slide over to power forward if the Nets are facing a smaller lineup.
According to NBA.com, Hollis-Jefferson holds opponents to 44.8 percent shooting, a number that’s shocking and marvelous at the same time.
For context, Jimmy Butler holds his foes to 45.9 percent on 10.2 shots and Kawhi Leonard sits at 43.6 on 9.2 attempts.
Hollis-Jefferson isn’t an All-Defensive player right now, but he has all the tools to reach that level.
His numbers are drastically better than last year, and that’s a benefit of him being more comfortable, but also because he’s playing defense correctly. As a rookie, Hollis-Jefferson averaged 1.3 steals a game compared to 1.0 this year and opponents were finishing a much high percentage of their shots because he wasn’t playing defense with his feet.
Now a second-year player, he understands how to use his length and athleticism on the defensive end, and general managers across the league salivate over the chance of getting an athletic player who hustles and leaves everything out on the floor.
It’s much easier to develop as a scorer than it is a defender, and Leonard and Butler are Hollis-Jefferson’s best-case scenarios.
However, the one deterrent is his offense. I don’t enjoy watching him on that side of the court because nine out of ten plays looked forced — even the solid plays are awkward and remind you of a sixth-grade CYO game. Hollis-Jefferson isn’t yet someone who can create for himself or his teammates, and it’s painfully obvious this season.
He’s not a totally inept offensive player, but any success will come from being someone who cuts, hangs out on the baseline and cleans up misses around the basket.
As much as Brooklyn would like to see him as a member of their core, it would be easy to see him go if the price is right.