I continue to be fascinated by Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
An undersized forward who doesn't score outside of the paint, Hollis-Jefferson isn't someone you'd expect to be in the rotation of one of the best teams in a league that is obsessed with spacing, but he has carved out a role for himself on the Toronto Raptors this season with his hustle and defensive versatility.
Based on data collected by Krishna Narsu of Nylon Calculus and Patrick Miller of The BBall Index, Hollis-Jefferson has been the league's single most versatile defender this season. That alone doesn't necessarily mean he's a good defender - there's a big difference between being able to defend multiple positions and being able to do it well - but we've seen him have success against a variety of players, including All-Stars such as Damian Lillard, Ben Simmons, LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Karl-Anthony Towns.
By all accounts, Hollis-Jefferson is a defensive-stopper capable of matching up with anyone. And in the right situation, he has proven to be a unique weapon.
While he's thrived in Toronto this season, there's a chance Hollis-Jefferson will be on a different team next season. Like Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka and Marc Gasol, he'll be an unrestricted free agent at the season's end, free to sign with any team in the league.
There are several teams that should be interested in signing him if he doesn't re-up with the Raptors, starting with the...
You'll probably notice a trend with most of these teams.
Given his limitations on offence, Hollis-Jefferson is at his best when he's paired with a big who can space the floor. The Timberwolves, of course, are home to Karl-Anthony Towns, who is the best shooting big man in the NBA. Towns has been limited to 35 games this season due to injuries, but he did something in those games that no centre has ever done before - shoot over 40.0 percent from the perimeter on a high volume of 3-pointers.
With Towns stretching defences out to the 3-point line, it would allow Hollis-Jefferson to play to his strengths on offence, essentially functioning as the team's centre.
Minnesota also happens to be home to one of the worst defenses in the league, which is why the Timberwolves make even more sense for Hollis-Jefferson. They'll need a lot more than just him to become decent on that end of the floor - D'Angelo Russell and Towns aren't known for their ability to come up with stops - but Hollis-Jefferson is the type of player the franchise should be looking to pair their young stars with because of how he can cover for their biggest weakness.
It helps that Hollis-Jefferson has experience playing next to Russell. The two were teammates on the Brooklyn Nets last season and played well off of each other. According to NBA.com, the only player on the Nets who set Hollis-Jefferson up for more baskets was Spencer Dinwiddie.
Based on what Russell had to say about Hollis-Jefferson that season - he called him the "heart and soul" of the Nets at one point - it wouldn't be a shock if he put in a good word for his former teammate.
Another team with a big man who can space the floor.
Kristaps Porzingis isn't quite the shooter that Towns is, but he's still launching 7.1 3-point attempts per game this season and knocking them down at a respectable 34.9 percent clip. Like Towns, the spacing Porzingis provides as a shooter would allow Hollis-Jefferson to live in the paint on offence. He'd fill the Dwight Powell role - set screens for Luka Doncic and hang out in the dunker spot while Porzingis spots-up on the 3-point line - giving the Mavericks a solid replacement for the Canadian as he continues to rehab from a season-ending Achilles injury.
The Mavericks also need some help defensively, although Porzingis is a far superior defender than Towns. With Hollis-Jefferson chasing around perimeter players and Porzingis protecting the rim, lineups built around them would be difficult to score against.
The Mavericks have reportedly shown interest in Hollis-Jefferson before. According to Brad Townsend of Dallas Morning News, Dallas "kicked tires" on Hollis-Jefferson and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, the latter of whom ended up signing with the Mavericks after he reached a buyout with the Charlotte Hornets, ahead of this season's trade deadline. If the Mavericks are still interested in him, they should have the means to pursue Hollis-Jefferson in the offseason.
There's a chance the Heat don't have quite enough shooting to make this work.
Not only is Bam Adebayo far more paint-bound than Towns and Porzingis are, Jimmy Butler's jump shot has mysteriously evaded him this season and Andre Iguodala, who the Heat acquired at the trade deadline and then signed to a two-year extension, has long been an inconsistent shooter. Lineups featuring those three and Hollis-Jefferson would be dynamite defensively but would have little-to-no spacing on offence.
Even with that in mind, Hollis-Jefferson ticks a couple of boxes for the Heat.
First and foremost, he feels like a Heat player. Under Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra, Miami has built the reputation of being one of the hardest working teams in the league and prides itself on defence. As I already mentioned, if there are two things Hollis-Jefferson is known for, it's his hustle and defensive versatility. For that reason alone, he seems destined to play for the Heat at some point in his career.
Secondly, it shouldn't cost the Heat much to sign him. Prior to the league being suspended, the Heat were projected to be one of the few teams in the league with legitimate money to spend this offseason. There's a chance they still will - John Hollinger of The Athletic wrote that they could have around $20 million to work with - but with their eyes set on 2021, they might be in the business of filling out their roster with short-term contracts to keep their books as open as possible.
The Heat will have several spots to fill, with Goran Dragic, Solomon Hill, Meyers Leonard, Jae Crowder, Derrick Jones and Udonis Haslem each being in the final years of their contracts. (Kelly Olynyk could join them in free agency as well if he declines his player option).
At the right price, Hollis-Jefferson would be a smart addition to their second unit.
Hopefully Hollis-Jefferson's fit next to Nikola Jokic is self explanatory at this point. (Jokic's ability to space the floor would give Hollis-Jefferson the real estate he needs to not be a complete liability on offence). This is more about him giving the Nuggets someone who can guard the likes of LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant, both in the regular season and playoffs.
This season, that responsibility has fallen primarily on Torrey Craig and Jerami Grant. The problem? Craig will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason and Grant has a player option in his contract for next season that he's already hinted at declining to become an unrestricted free agent himself.
With the possibility of both of them walking, the Nuggets would have an even greater need for Hollis-Jefferson.
Even if they were to both return, the Nuggets could do much worse than add Hollis-Jefferson to their bench. They're in a similar position as the Heat in that they'll have several spots to fill this offseason. In addition to Craig and possibly Grant, they could potentially see Paul Millsap, Mason Plumlee and Noah Vonleh leave as free agents, which ... is basically their entire frontcourt rotation.
So not only would Hollis-Jefferson give them another wing defender they could throw at James, Leonard and Durant, he would be an insurance policy in case one or more of Craig, Grant, Millsap, Vonleh or Plumlee leave in free agency.
Boston Celtics - If only because I like the idea of the Celtics rolling out a lineup of Kemba Walker, Marcus Smart, Jaylen Brown, Jayson Tatum and Hollis-Jefferson.
Milwaukee Bucks - If there's one thing the Bucks are missing, it's a four they can pair Giannis Antetokounmpo with in smaller lineups. The spacing wouldn't be ideal, but Antetokounmpo and Hollis-Jefferson would make for a devastating duo defensively.
Houston Rockets - I know what you're thinking. "Why would a team that just got rid of all their centres to go all-in on playing five-out sign someone who can't shoot outside of the paint?" I get it. But the Rockets have more than enough shooting to surround Hollis-Jefferson with and he'd fit in like a glove in their switch everything scheme. It isn't crazy, is all I'm saying.
The views expressed here do not represent those of the NBA or its clubs.