The Brooklyn Nets are in a for a really rough season. A playoff spot will be a tremendous challenge, especially since the Eastern Conference looks improved over a year ago.
That said, there is one player who could surprise: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, a defensive-minded rookie out of Arizona. Brooklyn acquired RHJ in a draft day deal, last June, that sent Mason Plumlee to Portland. Without even playing a single NBA minute, RHJ just seems like the prototypical Lionel Hollins wing.
He is long, hard-working and loves locking down the opposition’s best perimeter player. At ‘Zona, RHJ, not star freshman Stanley Johnson, was the designated ball hawk defensively and frequently made plays by turning steals into transition buckets.
The roster presents an excellent opportunity for RHJ to earn major minutes since the Nets lack anything resembling a wing stopper. Before the season ends, expect RHJ to supplant Bojan Bogdanovic in the starting lineup.
Sure, his jumper is still a bit broken but the Nets can utilize him as the fifth option, similar to Markel Brown’s role towards the end of last year. Slashing hard down the lane will result in easy buckets off feeds from Brook Lopez in the post and both Joe Johnson & Jarrett Jack on the wing.
In Summer League, he showed off nice versatility: diving for loose balls, finding open teammates, corralling tough boards and converting in transition. Take a look:
There’s a ton of intrigue here, especially considering he’s young (20 years old), coachable & confident.
RHJ’s main priorities heading into preseason are learning how/when to slash and hitting the short corner three. A 33-35 percent clip from long range should be the target in year one. If he can reach that benchmark, an All-Rookie team selection is not out of the cards.
Brooklyn absolutely needs either Brown, Chris McCullough, or RHJ to show promise. The opportunity is there for the latter to make waves once the season starts.