No. 1: Rondae Hollis-Jefferson
By my estimation, Terry Stotts could have some work to do in terms of toggling some of Portland’s lineups, so as to ensure that both his starters and second unit have capable defensive coverage. One of the first ways they could go about doing that is by adding defense and energy.
Rondae Hollis-Jefferson would have cracked my unofficial “League Pass Must-Watch All-Stars” a season ago, solely through his willingness to hustle for balls, both reachable and well, unreachable.
The Toronto Raptors were a TV fixture, if only to see Hollis-Jefferson diving for the ball, pencil-yellow shoes dangling in the air. In a climate where energy and support are solely internal, Hollis-Jefferson’s efforts should have him on an NBA roster.
Among players to play at least 40 games in 2020-21, only 13 players recovered more loose balls per 36 minutes, and only seven contested more 3-pointers.
It might create a scenario of too many cooks in the kitchen for Portland, since they already have Derrick Jones Jr., Gary Trent Jr., and Robert Covington, the former and latter of the three being great defenders, but not shooters. Putting Hollis-Jefferson’s career 21.3 3-point percentage in that mix could muck up spacing, but there’s value nonetheless.
We can sit here and discuss the hustle and grit, but here’s a statistic to stick in your back pocket, courtesy of Krishna Narsu of Nylon Calculus and The BBall Index’s Patrick Miller: the positions he defended divided basically into fifths, highlighting his viselike defensive approach and versatility. Pre-bubble, it rounded out to:
- 18 percent of time defending point guards
- 24 percent of time defending shooting guards
- 19 percent of time defending small forwards
- 21 percent defending power forwards
- 18 percent defending centers.
Those who’ve longed for defensive supremacy from the Portland Trail Blazers likely can’t help but salivate thinking about a potential “switch everything on the perimeter” lineup with Covington, Jones Jr., and Hollis-Jefferson, among others.
There’s some obvious interest. After all, Portland drafted him in 2015, and sent him off. Why not go full-on Harry Giles and bring it full circle?