After a rough start to his sophomore season, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson found new life after moving to power forward. This season, he is showing tremendous growth and ability at either forward position.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been a tantalizing prospect since his first days in Brooklyn. His elite athleticism and absurd wingspan, combined with decent defensive instincts for a young player, allowed him to quickly find a role in his rookie season. After an injury knocked out most of his rookie campaign, however, Rondae struggled to find a way to contribute on the offensive end during his sophomore season. His speed advantage on the wing was not enough to overcome his shaky jump shot.
However, Rondae found success offensively down the stretch of last season after moving to power forward. His 6'7" frame may have been a bit small for a big man, but he was able to make up for that relative lack of height with his 7'2" wingspan. His poor jump shot became less of a concern in the frontcourt, and his speed and ability to drive to the rim became more of an asset.
Hollis-Jefferson has built on that success this season, as he is having the best year of his young career. With similarly sized DeMarre Carroll as the other starting forward, Hollis-Jefferson can alternate between the forward spots to take advantage of his opponents. Despite Brooklyn's disappointing run of injury luck, Rondae's breakout season has been a bright spot in Brooklyn.
Time to Shine
During his first two seasons in the league, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson averaged 7.9 points per game on 43.8 percent shooting in 22.2 minutes per game. This season, Rondae is averaging 10.2 field goal attempts per game after fewer than seven attempts per game in each of his first two seasons. His minutes have also increased, as he is second on the team in minutes per game at 28.1 per contest. In most cases, a player becomes less efficient on offense with more minutes and more shot attempts. However, Rondae is shooting 48.5 percent from the floor this season and is averaging 14.6 points per game to go with 5.9 rebounds and almost two assists per contest.
The biggest reason behind RHJ's improved offensive play is his vastly improved feel near the basket. During his first two seasons in the league, Rondae would charge wildly at the rim and throw up a prayer of a shot, hoping to either draw a foul or luck into a circus shot. This season, Rondae has been driving to the rim just as much, but his control is far better than in the past. Instead of wildly charging towards the basket, Rondae has displayed enough patience and feel to wait for the right angle and the decisiveness to strike as soon as that angle becomes available:
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is shooting 57.1 percent from less than five feet away from the basket this season, per NBA.com. While that is slightly below league average, it is certainly an improvement from his 54.3 percent mark last year. Rondae is also taking more than half of his shots from that range. More importantly, he has been able to get to the line with more consistency than ever before.
Rondae is averaging 5.5 free throw attempts per game and is making 83 percent of them—well beyond his 3.2 attempts per game and 75.1 percent mark from last season. He ranks in the 70th percentile offensively this season per Synergy Sports. However, he ranks in the 83rd percentile in the half-court offense. That ranking is mostly due to his efficiency on post-ups. Rondae has the speed to slip past opposing big men, and the length and size to score over smaller defenders. Rondae was solid in the post last year (ranked in the 61st percentile) but has been exceptional in the post this year on a much higher volume of attempts. After shooting out of the post 57 times last season, Rondae has already attempted 34 post-ups this season. He has scored 39 points on those post-ups, leaving him in the 89th percentile of post-up efficiency.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has always had the athletic tools to succeed in the NBA. However, the biggest question surrounding his future outlook was his lack of an offensive game. While his jump shot remains a major question, Rondae has found a way to not only contribute but thrive on the offensive end while surrounded by three-point shooters in Brooklyn. His continued growth will be critical to Brooklyn's future, as Rondae is as good a bet as any to be a foundational piece in Brooklyn for years to come.