Arizona fans hit the jackpot when Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a potential lottery pick in Thursday’s NBA Draft, decided to stay in school for his sophomore season. The dynamic wing from Chester, PA is one of the most versatile and athletic players in the country, and many are expecting him to make the jump to an elite college player next season.
But if there’s one thing holding RHJ back from being one of next year’s break out stars, it’s his shooting. Despite all his physical prowess, Hollis-Jefferson’s shooting stroke lagged behind, and the numbers aren’t very kind either.
Take a look at this shooting chart, curated from the free data provided by Hoop-Math.com It paints a picture of stark contrast that backs up what most fans saw with their eyes.
It doesn’t take a shot chart to tell you that 95% of Hollis-Jefferson’s offense came from within the three point arc. But what the numbers bring to light is a shocking case of poor shot selection, with over 50% of Hollis-Jefferson’s field goal attempts coming on two point jumpshots. He attempted 124 shots from this area, hitting only 36 of them for 29%.
No other rotation player used more than 46% of their attempts on two point jumpers except Brandon Ashley. He converted 42.2% of them, second only to TJ McConnell’s 43.8 2PTJFG%.
Of course, this could be a product of playing with extremely talented post players like Ashley, Kaleb Tarczewski, and Orlando Magic rookie Aaron Gordon, who might’ve pushed Hollis-Jefferson further away from the rim when they were on the court together. And opponents could have responded to the scouting reports by sagging off and forcing him to take some of those shots.
But the bottom line is 29% just isn’t good enough. Certainly, one of two things needs to happen: A) Hollis-Jefferson starts making a higher percentage of two point jumpers, or B) He stops taking them. If Hollis-Jefferson continues to struggle from midrange, Arizona will be overly reliant on McConnell, Gabe York, and Stanley Johnson to stretch the floor.
If it wasn’t for Hollis-Jefferson’s elite finishing ability, his shooting percentage would be cringe worthy. RHJ was a sparkling 73.5% at the rim on 113 attempts. By comparison, the only better rim finisher was Tarczewski, who converted 74.6% on 126 attempts. And he’s 7′, 240 lbs.
Hollis-Jefferson’s tremendous ability at the rim should get fans excited because he’ll likely play a role similar to Gordon last year, who led the team with 177 attempts at the cup. This should result in a larger percentage of his attempts coming close to the basket, which should have a significant effect on his overall numbers.
And as a tremendous offensive rebounder, increased playing time should result in more high percentage putback opportunities. Whenever Hollis-Jefferson has a chance to create rim opportunities, that’s a good thing.
It’s reassuring to see that Hollis-Jefferson had no delusions about being a three point shooter last year. He mostly eschewed the shot for off the dribble probes, which is a sign of a good basketball IQ. Though he played out of control at times last year, Hollis-Jefferson’s attempts to get to the rim were much more good than bad over the long term.
It seems silly to pick apart Hollis-Jefferson’s shooting — his value comes from impacting the game in so many other areas — but it’s really the only wart on what is shaping up to be one of the best prospects in all of NCAA basketball. There’s not a whole lot else to critique.
Even if Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t make any significant strides with his shot this year, he’ll still be an All-Conference player, one of the most versatile forwards in the country, and perhaps college basketball’s preeminent on ball defender.
But if the lab work pays off and he improves his shot significantly, look out. A reliable jumpshot puts Hollis-Jefferson in the conversation for best player in the country.