Toronto Raptors: What are the odds Rondae Hollis-Jefferson becomes a capable shooter?

Toronto Raptors - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images)
Toronto Raptors - Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Richard Lautens/Toronto Star via Getty Images) /

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has yet to develop a jumpshot during his first four seasons in the NBA. What are the odds he figures it out with the Toronto Raptors?

“Shooters aren’t born, they’re made.” It’s an often repeated trope, which tells us that with enough time in the gym, anyone can become a capable shooter. Unfortunately for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and the Toronto Raptors, it’s not really true.

There’s no denying shooting is an acquired talent. Someone who’s never shot a basketball, or hasn’t done so extensively, probably isn’t going to be very good at it. However, there are also players, who no matter how hard they work, just can never seem to develop a jumpshot. To this point in his career, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has been one of those players.

In four NBA seasons, Hollis-Jefferson has made just 41 total three-point attempts, has shot just 22-percent from beyond the arc, and perhaps most damningly, has not improved in the slightest. Last season, RHJ went 9-49 from beyond the arc, making less than 19-percent of his looks.

While he doesn’t necessarily need to develop a three-point shot to become an effective player, having one would certainly make Hollis-Jefferson’s life a whole lot easier. In fact, it’s the single more important developmental step of his NBA career.

Typical NBA developmental record and signs for Jefferson

With offenses attempting more three-point shots than ever before, we’ve seen a multitude of players extend their game behind the arc.

Brook Lopez had seven three-point attempts during his first six years in the NBA. Last season he had 512. Marc Gasol didn’t make double-digit threes until his ninth NBA season, when he made 104. The Toronto Raptors even saw bludgeoning big-man Jonas Valanciunas develop a deep-ball during his time with the team.

But those players were different from RHJ. They had mid-range jumpshots which eventually extended beyond the arc. In general, NBA players don’t typically develop pure jumpers out of nowhere. They grow it from inside the arc and extend it out.

Hollis-Jefferson, however, shot just 31-percent from the mid-range last season (according to CleaningtheGlass), and early in his career, yet to show a consistent spot-up of any kind. Most of what we’ve seen from him has been quite ugly.

You don’t have to be a shooting coach or some type of mechanics expert to see the ugliness this jumper. His left elbow is flared, has an unusual hitch, and just doesn’t look comfortable. There have been unusual jumpers which have worked in the NBA before, but if you were starting from scratch, you definitely wouldn’t start with his.

In terms of spot-up efficiency and fluid motion, there have been few signs of encouragement from Hollis-Jefferson thus far in his career.

Raptors developmental record

Pascal Siakam went 1-7 from three his rookie season, 14-percent. He went 29-132 his sophomore season, 22-percent. Last year, he was able to shoot 79-214, an incredible 37-percent. If the Raptors can transform him, there might be some hope for Hollis-Jefferson.

While the Raptors do have one of the better developmental systems in the NBA, using Siakam’s transformation as a shooter is cherry-picking the data to some degree. Sure, Toronto has had other moderate successes like helping Jonas Valanciunas move behind the arc and developing a young OG Anunoby, but they have also had some misses.

Delon Wright‘s jumper actively regressed during his time in Toronto, Norman Powell‘s percentages have waxed and waned, and perhaps most notably, Serge Ibaka hasn’t improved since coming to the team.

Like Ibaka before him, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson has already spent time with an NBA staff.  Brooklyn has a notable player development system. A system which wasn’t able to do anything with Hollis-Jefferson’s shooting stroke.

For the Raptors to create a jumpshot out of thin air for RHJ, they’ll need to be notably better than one of the best developmental staffs in the NBA.

What are the odds?

The good news for Hollis-Jefferson is that the bar is incredibly low, thanks to his other skills as a player. If he’s even able to make wide-open jump shots from only the corner, he’s a rotation-quality player.

With that being said, the odds still aren’t great. Players rarely develop jumpshots after they’ve been in the NBA for multiple years, and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s shot hasn’t improved over his first four seasons. The Raptors staff has had success before, but this is an entirely new challenge.

Final odds: 10-15 percent

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But there is good news. At $2.5 million for one season, RHJ is a no-risk flier. If he doesn’t work out, the Toronto Raptors can easily move on with no repercussions.

Also, with many other facets of his game to like — impressive defensive ability, great instincts as a passer, an ability to get to the foul line — there is a chance Rondae Hollis-Jefferson becomes a rotation quality player without a jumpshot. Good thing, because the odds of him developing one, aren’t in his favor.