Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

The Rondae Hollis-Jefferson Dilemma

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson appeared to have figured out his role in the NBA last season. After a solid rookie season and an inconsistent sophomore campaign, Hollis-Jefferson averaged career highs across the board in Year Three, putting up 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 2.5 assists per game.

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Last year was also his most efficient shooting season. He made a career-best 47.2 percent of his field goals and put up a respectable 54.8 True Shooting percentage. Hollis-Jefferson also got to the line more than he ever had before. He managed to take advantage of his herky-jerky style to get to draw fouls instead of throwing up prayers off the glass.

This year should have been the year that Hollis-Jefferson solidified his NBA career. After his dramatic improvement in his third season, he should have taken another step forward in the final year of his rookie deal. Instead, the Nets are in playoff contention despite RHJ’s season-long struggles. Hollis-Jefferson is more inefficient offensively than ever before, shooting just 40.9 percent from the field. He’s back to chucking up wild shots near the rim and hoping that they go in.

The Nets will have some difficult decisions to make this offseason, and deciding on Hollis-Jefferson’s future is one of them. While many Nets fans are tired of his wildly inconsistent play, he might be undervalued on the open market after his terrible season. Sean Marks might not be desperate to keep RHJ. To be fair, he shouldn’t be given the other free agency decisions he will need to make. Nonetheless, hoping for a Rondae recovery in Year Five might be well worth it depending on the kind of contract he can get.

Offensive Regression

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has always been a defense-first player. His defense was way better than expectations as a rookie, mostly because rookies aren’t expected to be good defensively. His offensive game, however, has always been a work in progress.

Hollis-Jefferson appeared to make major strides on that front last season. He got better at letting the game come to him; his drives were just a touch less frantic, and he was a much more willing passer. He would wait for defenses to catch him on his wild forays to the rim so that he could draw contact and get to the line.

The wild forays to the rim are still there, but the effectiveness of those drives is…not. Hollis-Jefferson has been given fewer opportunities as the lead ball-handler this year due to D’Angelo Russell’s All-Star breakout. Still, that is no excuse for his horribly inefficient play.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has a True Shooting Percentage of just 46.7 percent this season, making him one of the most inefficient offensive players in the league. His lack of a three-point shot has always been a bit of an issue. However, it’s even more of an issue when RHJ can’t convert on the interior either. His drives to the rim look as out-of-control as they did during his rookie, which is troubling to say the least:

Even when he isn’t tightly guarded, Hollis-Jefferson often makes his shots near the basket more complicated than they need to be:

His rookie year was actually a better offensive showing than this year for Hollis-Jefferson in a number of ways. For starters, his rookie season True Shooting percentage was 51.9. That’s still a below-average mark, but it’s a far cry from his miserable shooting this season. Hollis-Jefferson has generated -0.3 Offensive Win Shares this season per Basketball-reference; this would be his first negative season in that particular metric.

Defensive Stagnation

The only good news about Rondae Hollis-Jefferson this season is that he hasn’t taken a step back on the defensive end. He’s still a force to be reckoned with, especially on defensive switches. He has the size (at 6’7″ with a 7’2″ wingspan) to cover power forwards and even centers on occasion. He also has the foot speed to keep up with guards on the perimeter. It would not be too much of a stretch to say that RHJ has been Brooklyn’s second-most important defensive player behind Jarrett Allen.

The problem is that Hollis-Jefferson hasn’t taken the next step forward on the defensive end. If he continues to struggle on the offensive end, he will have to make up for it on defense. However, his steal rate is identical to last season. His block rate is actually somewhat down from last season.

Going beyond the counting stats, RHJ hasn’t improved much by the eye test either. His defensive positioning is much better than it was during his first two years in the league (he’s in the right place on defense far more often than not), but he hasn’t made the leap to being in consideration for an All-Defensive Team. If his offense continues to sputter, he’ll need to reach that level to stick around in the NBA.

Future Outlook

The Brooklyn Nets have a number of decisions to make this summer. Most of them are higher priorities than Rondae Hollis-Jefferson. The biggest decision will be what the team does with D’Angelo Russell this summer. After that, Sean Marks and co. will look at the superstar free agents. At least one of Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, and Jimmy Butler will take a look at the team’s stellar developmental reputation and solid growth this season. Even DeMarre Carroll and Ed Davis are probably viewed as more important pieces for the team’s future.

With all of that in mind, the Nets will have a chance to lock up Hollis-Jefferson at the nadir of his value. Many fans are out on Rondae no matter what the price tag would be. Still, a two or three-year deal at around $6 million per year could be a worthwhile gamble.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is having the worst season of his NBA career at the worst possible time. His poor timing might make it easy for the Nets to sign him for a bargain price. If this season is the outlier for his career (and not last season), a cheap contract for RHJ could be yet another feather in Sean Marks’ cap.