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Toronto Raptors

NBA Free Agency 2019: What does Rondae Hollis-Jefferson bring to the Toronto Raptors?

rondae-hollis-jefferson-070819-ftr-getty.jpg
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (NBA Getty Images)

The Toronto Raptors announced on Thursday that they have signed forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

Shams Charania of The Athletic was the first to report the signing, adding that Hollis-Jefferson will join the Raptors on a one-year deal.

A defensive-minded forward who is still very much a work in progress on the offensive end, Hollis-Jefferson is similar to Stanley Johnson in many ways. The biggest difference between the two is Hollis-Jefferson is best suited as a small-ball power forward, whereas Johnson is more of a small forward.

MORE: Fast facts on Hollis-Jefferson | Johnson's fit on Raptors

Hollis-Jefferson is even more limited of a shooter than Johnson, having made only 22.3 percent of his 0.8 3-point attempts per game in his NBA career. (In total, 3-pointers have made up about a tenth of his shot attempts to this point of his career compared to almost half for Johnson).

As a result, he does almost all of his scoring in the painted area.

Standing at 6-foot-7, Hollis-Jefferson doesn't quite have the size of a traditional power forward, but he's big enough to overwhelm smaller defenders and athletic enough to get his shot off against bigger defenders at the rim. The combination will allow the Raptors to use him in a variety of ways to make up for his inability to space the floor, much like the Nets did in his four seasons in Brooklyn.

In his final season with the Nets, Hollis-Jefferson scored the bulk of his points on spot-ups. While he isn't much of a threat to shoot when he catches the ball at the 3-point line, he has a good enough handle to attack closeouts on straight-line drives, which is why developing a more consistent jump should would do wonders for his game.

The rest of his scoring came in ways you'd expect to see from a big man - the screener in pick-and-rolls, on cuts, off of offensive rebounds - although he also likes to get out in transition.

Similar to Johnson, the Raptors will look to make use of Hollis-Jefferson's willingness to get out in the open court. Led by Kyle Lowry and Pascal Siakam, Toronto finished third in transition scoring in Nick Nurse's first season as head coach. Running the floor with them should lead to better shots, both for him and Johnson.

Hollis-Jefferson isn't only a scorer. He's a decent passer, better than the 1.6 assists he averaged per game last season would suggest.

Hollis-Jefferson keeps the ball moving when he's on the court and he's capable of making reads on the short roll. That will only ease his fit on the Raptors, as they can surround him with shooters at almost every position, including centre as long as Marc Gasol and Serge Ibaka are on the team.

All in all, statistics like ESPN's Offensive Real Plus-Minus (ORPM) paint Hollis-Jefferson as a negative offensive player but one that's slightly better than Johnson.

The biggest draw with Hollis-Jefferson is what he's capable of doing on the other end of the floor. His versatility on defence becomes clear when looking at NBA.com's matchup data to see who he defended the most last season: Ben Simmons, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James, followed by Lauri Markkanen, Karl-Anthony Towns and even Joel Embiid.

According to ESPN's Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DRPM), Hollis-Jefferson has been a plus defender each season he's been in the league, peaking as the fourth and 10th-most impactful defender at the small forward position.

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson's Defensive Real Plus-Minus (DPRM)
Season Games DRPM Position Rank
2015-16 29 2.05 4
2016-17 78 1.78 10
2017-18 68 0.10 34
2018-19 59 0.55 27

Even with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Hollis-Jefferson isn't a big-time rim protector - he averaged 0.5 blocks per game and gave up 64.9 percent shooting at the rim last season - but he's a smart, physical defender with quick hands who plays with a lot of energy. As much as lineups featuring him, Lowry, Siakam and OG Anunoby might struggle offensively, they'd be able to switch across the board and push the pace in transition.

At the very least, the Raptors will have lineup flexibility this upcoming season with Hollis-Jefferson, Johnson, Siakam and Anunoby each being able to play both forward positions. Hollis-Jefferson and Siakam can even play some centre should Nurse choose to go super small.

As is the case with Johnson, there's very little risk involved for the Raptors in signing Hollis-Jefferson for as little as they did. He has the tools to make an immediate impact with his defence and hustle, and he has enough upside to believe he still has room to grow.

It's a win-win for Hollis-Jefferson as well, giving him an opportunity to prove himself in a new environment before he becomes an unrestricted free agent again in the summer of 2020.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA or its clubs.

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