Toronto Raptors: Best and worst-case scenario for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The Toronto Raptors are taking a risk on Rondae Hollis-Jefferson; but there are ways that Hollis-Jefferson can live up to his signing and, simultaneously, remain as a contributor in the NBA.

Four years into Rondae Hollis-Jefferson’s career and we’re still unsure of what he brings to the table. In fact, he might be unsure of what he ultimately brings to the table. That said, Hollis-Jefferson has the ability to play himself up in the rotation of the Toronto Raptors.

And, on a team without many expectations and a heavy sigh-of-relief for the champs, he has a chance to make a statement about his abilities as an NBA player.

In his four seasons, Hollis-Jefferson spent all his time with the Brooklyn Nets. There he was a semi-starter and rotation player and helped defensively above all else. There aren’t a lot of upsides he showed in the past year. In fact, he was statistically worse in all shooting categories compared to the season prior.

While the Brooklyn Nets were a better overall team last year than in 2017-18, Hollis-Jefferson’s stats ostensibly declined. All this leaves a lot of stones unturned for Hollis-Jefferson and a lot of questions about his role and capability to fill voids left by the departure of Kawhi Leonard and Danny Green.

With that in mind, what really is the worst-case scenario for Hollis-Jefferson?

The Worst-Case Scenario AKA The “Tony Wroten” Scenario

Tony Wroten isn’t a name that is likely to trigger any memories of emphatic plays. And, to compare Hollis-Jefferson straight to Wroten is indeed farfetched. But, we’re talking about the worst-case scenario here.

Wroten played his way out of the NBA mostly because he couldn’t make a shot. For a game that is predicated on putting the ball through the hoop, it isn’t hard to understand why he was cut at a young age.

But, Hollis-Jefferson suffers a similar fate to Wroten. He, too, can’t really make a shot. And, somehow, he just posted the worst shooting numbers of his career.

The Wroten comparison comes down to this: If Hollis-Jefferson’s last season with the Nets was an aberration then we can write off this comparison. But, if it is a sign of things to come then Hollis-Jefferson may have just “Wroten” himself towards the end of his career.

That reason alone is why the Toronto Raptors front office took such a low-risk, high-reward type of shot on Hollis-Jefferson with a one-year, 2.5 million dollar contract. Maybe the Raptors employ a “shot doctor” and, if so, can fix the problems that Hollis-Jefferson faces.

If not, well, it’s hard to imagine Hollis-Jefferson keeping himself in the NBA even with his defensive prowess.

The Best-Case Scenario AKA The “PJ Tucker” Scenario

There aren’t many people on NBA rosters that can seemingly guard anyone, but P.J. Tucker is that type of player. At times, the Houston Rockets played Tucker at center and–even though he’s a hellish bulldog–he only stands at 6-foot-6. That’s the type of defender the Raptors hope they have in Hollis-Jefferson.

But, what they also want is Tucker’s exemplary 3-point shooting. For his career, Tucker shoots 36.1 percent from 3-point land. Meanwhile, Hollis-Jefferson shoots a dismal 22.3 percent per

Now, Hollis-Jefferson won’t become an above-average 3-point shooter overnight. He, perhaps, might never become above-average whatsoever. But, Hollis-Jefferson can improve in this aspect, which makes him a credible threat from beyond the arc–an important mechanism to spreading the floor for the Raptors.

Realistically, the Raptors already understand that they have a dogged defender in Hollis-Jefferson, so now’s the time to see what he’s capable of as a shooter. Although his numbers have diminished as of late, he will have less pressure to perform this season.

If all goes well for Hollis-Jefferson, he could be the next P.J. Tucker for the Raptors.

Where does he fit in on the Toronto Raptors?

Likely, Hollis-Jefferson will fit somewhere in between these guys. He shouldn’t be expected to suddenly make a huge leap in his 3-point shooting, but he ought to try his best. Moreover, he should realistically work on what he’s already good at: rim-running and defense.

Some of Hollis-Jefferson’s most effective line-ups with the Nets included surrounding himself with shooters and a length center. Fortunately for the Raptors, they employ some capable shooters such as Fred VanVleet, Matt Thomas, and Norm Powell as well as strong centers in Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka.

Surrounding Hollis-Jefferson with shooters by staggering minutes for starters and bench players will prove to be worthwhile for his effectiveness.

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Hollis-Jefferson won’t fill all the offensive holes left by Kawhi and Green, but he is a start to filling some of the defense left behind.

He has a long way to go and this might be the year that defines his career. If he can make some small improvements then he’ll head into free agency with a long-term contract up for grabs. If not, well, he might be relegated overseas after the season ends.