Sixth-year forward Rondae Hollis-Jefferson was waived by the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday, just over two weeks after being signed. The Cleveland Cavaliers have a dearth of young frontcourt talent, so should the team take a look at the former first-round pick?
Hollis-Jefferson was originally selected 23rd overall by the Portland Trail Blazers in the 2015 NBA Draft. He was immediately sent as part of a package to the Brooklyn Nets that landed Portland Mason Plumlee. Hollis-Jefferson started 147 of 234 games with the Nets, with his best season coming in 2017-2018 when he averaged 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steal per game. After four seasons in Brooklyn, Hollis-Jefferson signed a one-year deal with the defending champions, Toronto Raptors. He played 18.7 minutes per night during the regular season, but he was not a part of the rotation during Toronto’s Easter Conference Semifinals loss to the Boston Celtics.
At 6-foot-6 and 215 pounds with a 7-2 wingspan and great athleticism, Hollis-Jefferson is a defensive chess piece who can guard multiple positions, something every team can use. The problem is he’s extremely limited offensively. He doesn’t provide floor spacing, as he averages just 0.7 3-point attempts per game (and shoots an abysmal 21 percent on those), and his career 44.8 field goal percentage is lower than you’d like a non-shooter to have.
In fact, Hollis-Jefferson is everything the Cavs don’t want Isaac Okoro to become. Okoro lacks Hollis-Jefferson’s elite length, but right now he is the same ballpark offensively. That said, Okoro has already shown off a better outside shooting stroke and the ability to get to the rim in transition. He was a much higher pick than RHJ, and as such, should be expected to develop into a better player.
What could Rondae Hollis-Jefferson offer the Cavs? Defensive versatility on the wing. He could guard both small and power forwards, as well as serve as a small-ball 4 or even potentially a 5. Cleveland lacks young talent in the frontcourt, so they should be looking to add some in any way they can.
The problem is that Hollis-Jefferson doesn’t provide the team with anything they don’t already have. He’s already 25, which is young, but not young enough to be considered a core player in the rebuild. The Cavs also have Larry Nance Jr., who can play 3 through 5 and is a much, much better all-around player than RHJ. There is an argument to be made that Hollis-Jefferson’s defensive ability would be worth adding to the team, even with his poor offensive game. However, the Cavaliers aren’t exactly in win-now mode and they would be better off seeing what they have in players like Dean Wade, Lamar Stevens and Thon Maker.
There is a potential role for Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in Cleveland, but the fit does not appear good enough for the team to make a move. Hollis-Jefferson should be able to find work somewhere; his athleticism and length are too valuable to be sitting at home. That somewhere just won’t be with the Cavs.