In the NBA, success is just as much about talent as it is team fit. Here’s a look at how former Wildcat Rondae Hollis-Jefferson fits in with the Brooklyn Nets in his first professional season.
What complicates things is that the Nets are one of the more unstable teams in the NBA at the moment. After spending vast amounts of cap space on their core stars, Brooklyn’s attempt at a superteam ultimately fizzled out. Now, they’re sitting in the stink of it while trying to take the next step as a franchise.
That next step appears to be a fire sale, as the team agreed to a buyout of starting point guard Deron Williams and has actively shopped Joe Johnson’s bloated contract too.
The Nets did resign starting center Brook Lopez and power forward Thaddeus Young though, so the team’s talent is concentrated in the frontcourt along with Johnson, the incumbent small forward.
That will probably limit Hollis-Jefferson’s minutes, who is expected to play mostly at the 3 with the ability to play the 4 against smaller opponents. Johnson averaged over 34 minutes per game last season and is going to be the team’s top perimeter scoring option, so he figures to be on the court a lot next year.
Of course, if Johnson were to get traded to a team that would like to take his expiring 24 million dollar contract off the books next year, that would open up the world for Hollis-Jefferson.
But any trade talk is premature at this point, and Hollis-Jefferson will have to carve out his own path to minutes in a couple of different ways.
Of course defense will be the primary way RHJ gets on the court. Brooklyn lacks perimeter defenders, so he could potentially play a meaningful role as a reserve defensive specialist.
But the more important way Hollis-Jefferson will earn time will be through an improved shooting stroke. He’s got a long way to go in that department, but he’s shown some promise so far in Summer League play.
After scoring in single digits for his first four games, Hollis-Jefferson exploded for 22 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, and 4 steals. He struggled with his shot, converting just 8 of 21 attempts, but his increased aggression as a scorer bodes well for his offensive improvement.
Hollis-Jefferson continued that momentum in his last game, scoring 15 points with 9 rebounds, 4 assists, and 4 steals on 5 of 11 shooting.
It won’t be that easy in the regular season, but it’s clear Hollis-Jefferson’s comfort level is rising. And as he gets more comfortable in the pro game, his versatility and athleticism are shining through.
Hollis-Jefferson’s rookie season shouldn’t be judged by the stats, but more on how he improves and manages to fit into the team’s rotation. If he makes strides in his offensive game, though, Hollis-Jefferson could be a big part of the Nets’ immediate plans.