In our first rendition, we took a look at Stanley Johnson's NBA Draft Player Profile. While Stanley will likely be the first Wildcat off the board during June 25th's NBA Draft, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson shouldn't have to wait too long to hear his name be called by commissioner Adam Silver.
It's assumed at this point that Hollis-Jefferson will be selected in the first round. DraftExpress.com has RHJ being selected 22nd to the Portland Trail Blazers, while Chad Ford of ESPN.com has Hollis-Jefferson going 20th to the Toronto Raptors. In fact, I don't think I could find one mock draft that has Hollis-Jefferson being selected anywhere but the first round.
With that being said, let's take a look at what Rondae does well, what he needs to work on, how his game translates to the NBA, and a brief look back at his college and high school career.
College statistics and accolades:
Before becoming a Wildcat, Hollis-Jefferson had a very decorated high school career. He was a McDonald's All-American, he played in the Jordan Brand Classic, and helped Chester High School achieve their first ever undefeated season.
When he arrived in Tucson, he immediately made a significant impact and became a fan-favorite. As a freshman, Hollis-Jefferson was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman Team after averaging 9.1 PPG, 5.7 RPG, 1.4 APG, 0.7 STLs, and 1.1 BLKs. He also shot 49% from the field, and 68% from the free throw line. A number that improved after he implemented his now world-famous "shimmy". What the stats also don't necessarily show is his defensive prowess. He was a versatile, lock-down defender, and paired with Aaron Gordon, they became a top defensive wing duo in the country.
After thinking long and hard about entering the NBA Draft after his freshman year, Hollis-Jefferson decided to return to Tucson for another season. When players return to college for another season, it's imperative that they improve or otherwise they could see a dip in their draft stock. Hollis-Jefferson certainly improved. He was named to the first-team All-Pac-12 and was also named to the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team (somehow he didn't win the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year Award though). He averaged 11.2 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.6 APG, 1.2 STLs, and 0.7 BLKs. His field goal percentage increased to 50.2% and he improved at the free throw line as well. The shimmy really works.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson is a lock-down defender. Plain and simple. If you could artificially create a dominant, versatile defender, you'd probably create Rondae. He has incredible lateral quickness. He can hang with every player on the basketball court. He guarded Pac-12 Player of the Year Joseph Young, he guarded Sam Dekker, he guarded Frank Kaminsky, he guarded Delon Wright. He literally could guard all five positions. And it's not just his quickness that makes him effective. He has a 7-2 wingspan that allows him to disrupt passing lanes and contest and alter shots.
To make things even scarier, he never takes a play off and has a high basketball IQ. He defends without fouling. He rarely bites on pump fakes. He doesn't get burned gambling for steals or blocks. He's both a great individual defender, and a team defender.
While his defensive ability is certainly his calling card, he excels in another areas as well. He's a phenomenal rebounder for his position. His defensive rebounding percentage during his sophomore season was 20.1%, which means he grabs rebounds on the defensive end at a higher rate than many of the top prospects in the draft including Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow, Stanley Johnson, and Willie Cauley-Stein. According to DraftExpress.com, he is the 4th best rebounding wing in the draft.
This is another area where his high motor comes into play. He's one of those players that always seems to be in the right spot in the right time.
Offensively, Hollis-Jefferson is what you call a "slasher". He's at his best when he has a full head of steam going towards the basket. Due to his athleticism, he's a great finisher. He can finish powerfully above the rim, but also has tremendous body control and makes all kinds of acrobatic layups. He is also capable of taking the ball coast-to-coast after grabbing a rebound.
While he's not much of a shooter, he did show flashes of a high post face-up game. He has a quick first step and can beat his defender off the dribble and finish through contact. He can also sink mid-range jumpers, though those aren't the shots you want him taking at a high volume.
His biggest weakness is undeniably his jumpshot. In his two seasons at Arizona, he shot a combined 8-39 (20.7%) from behind the arc. In his freshman year, he took just ten threes, while in his sophomore season he took twenty-nine. And you can't really say that he improved, since he shot roughly 20% in both years.
His mid-range shooting ability is a little better, but he still shot just 32.8% on two-point jumpers, according to Hoop-Math.com. In short, you don't want him shooting the basketball.
His inability to shoot doesn't just hurt him as a player, it can really hamper his team's offense. Opposing defenses don't really have to guard him from beyond 16 to 18 feet, and as a result, it ruins the spacing of the offense. Driving lanes get clogged and passing lanes get tighter.
Other than the lack of a jumpshot, Hollis-Jefferson doesn't really have any other major weaknesses. I will say that he can get a bit out of control at times on offense. There are times when he gets the ball and you know that he's going to put up a shot, regardless of how the defense reacts. He'll put his head down and drive into traffic only to throw up a wild attempt.
Oh, and since there's a strong chance he'll always be a non-shooter at the next level, he'll need to improve his ball handling. He can get a little turnover prone, and since he'll have to rely on creating off the dribble and getting to the rim to score, improved ball-handling ability would make it a bit easier to shake his defender and create space.
How does he project to the next level?
From day one, he should be able to defend at an extremely high level. He guarded all five positions at Arizona, but in the NBA, I think he'll be relegated to guarding three to four positions, which is amazing and incredibly valuable. I don't see him being able to guard centers, and he'll need to add some strength before he guards power forwards (though, he'll be able to guard "stretch fours" which are becoming increasingly common in the NBA). Nonetheless, the versatility he offers on that end should pay immediate dividends for the team that drafts him, and in the long-term, he can become a lock-down defender.
Offensively is where he needs to improve. He'll definitely be able to score in transition and can be a menace on the offensive glass, but without a reliable jumper, his ceiling is limited. He'd fit best with a run-and-gun type team that would get him a healthy amount of opportunities in transition.
Some player comparisons that have been thrown around with Rondae are Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Tony Allen, and I have to say that those are pretty spot on, though I think the MKG comparison is a better one.
In the end, teams are interested in Hollis-Jefferson because of defensive ability and athleticism. You know you're going to get an elite-level defender when you draft him and if his offensive game expands, he could be a top two-way player in the league. Getting to watch him shimmy before every free throw is definitely a plus, too.