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2020 Hornets free agent forum: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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Let’s see, a 25-year-old elite wing defender at a bargain basement salary? Sign me up, baby!

Charlotte Hornets v Toronto Raptors Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images

Welcome to the 2020 Hornets Free Agent Forum where each week I will profile a potential 2020 free agent target for the Charlotte Hornets. Most of the players I’ll highlight will be unrestricted free agents (list here) whose ages and skill sets fit nicely with a young, up-and-coming Hornets roster. Feel free to engage in the comments because what makes free agency so fun to debate is it’s not just about the player, it’s also about roster construction, cap usage, and culture.

Player: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, SF

Age: 25

Height: 6’6”

Standing reach: 8’8”

2020 stats: 18.7 MPG, 7.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG, 1.8 APG, 0.8 SPG, 47.1% FG, 13.0% 3PT

Estimated market value: $3-$4 million?

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson could represent one of the biggest bargains in the 2020 free agency period. After being drafted No. 23 in 2015 he spent his first four seasons with the Brooklyn Nets who declined to extend him a qualifying offer in 2019. He then signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with the Toronto Raptors this past season and is now an unrestricted free agent.

While I can’t find a credible estimate of his 2020 market value, I’d suspect it’s probably similar to the deal he signed just a year ago, so I’m assuming somewhere between $3-$4 million. At that salary I’d love to see the former Arizona Wildcat come to Charlotte. Remember, with free agency it’s not just about how “good” a player is, it’s about how much he can outperform his salary cap figure. At somewhere below $4 million per season, RHJ can do just that.

Hollis-Jefferson isn’t a star. He isn’t a difference maker. He won’t singlehandedly push the Hornets into the playoffs. But basketball is a team game, and RHJ could be a valuable cog in Charlotte’s wheel.

The positives

First, he’s a solid, versatile wing defender capable of guarding multiple positions. His Defensive Real Plus-Minus of 0.68 this past season ranked 19th among small forwards (min. 500 minutes played). In 2018-19 his DRPM of 1.46 ranked ninth among small forwards was 32nd in the entire league (min. 800 minutes played).

But it’s Hollis-Jefferson’s ability to guard multiple positions that makes him a unique defensive asset. When the NBA suspended the season in March 2020, here’s how often he had guarded each position:

  • 18% point guards
  • 24% shooting guards
  • 19% small forwards
  • 21% power forwards
  • 18% centers

That’s remarkable. The Athletic summed it up this way: “He has spent no less than 17.7 percent of his minutes guarding any single position. By this measure, he has quite literally been the most versatile defender in the league, ahead of OG Anunoby, James Harden and Ben Simmons.” RHJ can guard multiple positions and defend them well. His defensive versatility and effectiveness is rare in the NBA, especially for a 25-year-old unrestricted free agent.

He’s also a good rebounder for a small forward. Throughout his five-year career he has averaged 5.6 rebounds in 22.6 minutes per game. His per-36 minute average is 9.0 rebounds per game.

RHJ’s teams have made the playoffs in each of the last two seasons, too. Despite his relative youth he has at least some experience contributing to teams that survive the grind of the regular season and qualify for the postseason. Few Hornets players have that postseason pedigree.

The red flags

Let’s be clear on one thing: Hollis-Jefferson is a terrible three-point shooter and he’s somehow getting worse. For his career he is only hitting 21.3% of his three-point attempts, but over the last two seasons his average has dropped to 18.4% in 2018-19 then cratered to a career low 13.0% this past year. He won’t stretch the floor, which is a major liability in today’s NBA.

Despite the lack of three-point shooting, RHJ is a “good enough” scorer. He’s not going to win games by dropping 30 points on a regular basis, but he’s not going to hurt an offense like Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, for example. He has averaged 9.3 points per game on about 45% shooting throughout his career. In 2017-18 he averaged a respectable 13.9 points per game on 47.2% shooting. When put in the right situation, he can find his way offensively.

The summary

I could see RHJ being a strong rotational player for the Hornets, essentially filling the same role in Charlotte as he has in Brooklyn and Toronto by playing about 20 minutes per night off the bench. In addition to his solid, versatile defense he could also chip in 10 points and five or six rebounds on a pretty regular basis. He could also end up playing some crunch time minutes to guard an opposing team’s best wing player.

At a likely salary of less than $4 million per year, I don’t see how the Hornets could lose by signing RHJ, a young, proven commodity who can make a defensive impact every time he steps on the floor. At that salary figure, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would be an excellent signing.

Poll

If you were the Hornets GM, would you sign Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to a contract averaging around $4 million per year?

This poll is closed

  • 65%
    Yes
    (90 votes)
  • 34%
    No
    (48 votes)
138 votes total Vote Now