Rondae Hollis-Jefferson will be key to the Raptors defending their championship

Harley Kock
BarnBurner Sports Writer


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

With averages of 7.2ppg, 4.9rpg, 1.7apg, 0.8spg and 0.4bpg his numbers don’t jump off the page, but Hollis-Jefferson will be a big part of the postseason run.

TORONTO, ON - When the Toronto Raptors signed Rondae Hollis-Jefferson in the offseason it wasn’t met with a lot of excitement. Most, if not all of that was because of timing. His one-year contract was announced shortly after Kawhi Leonard decided to take his talents to L.A.


So when fans heard about Rondae, all they saw was that he wasn’t Kawhi. Not a fair start to his career north of the border. 


Coupled with Stanley Johnson and Hollis-Jefferson getting called out by their new Head Coach, Nick Nurse, over their defensive effort, (the thing Hollis-Jefferson is known for) it was looking like a one and done for Rondae in Raptors red.


But things drastically changed just a few weeks into the season. The first eight games he got a total of four minutes. Then we finally got to see what Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had to offer when Serge Ibaka got injured, and it was a lot.


You can see it in his defensive percentages. Hollis-Jefferson is the most versatile defender in the entire NBA. Here is the amount of time he spends guarding different positions on the opposing team; point guards (18.3 percent), shooting guards (23.6 percent), small forwards (19.3 percent), power forwards (21.0 percent) and centres (17.7 percent). That is the definition of a guy who can not only guard 1-5, but can excel guarding 1-5. His energy, toughness and defensive effort earned himself a spot in the regular rotation before he had his own injury in January.


He quickly bounced back from that and was put right back into his role off the bench. Despite most NBA experts not having faith in Toronto, The Raptors proved all season long that their defence makes them a legit contender. They were second in defensive rating before the league shutdown and Hollis-Jefferson was a big part of that.


He’s also taken that competitive nature into e-sports. Just before the COVID-19 Pandemic back in March he signed to be the Global ambassador for Amuka ESports, but that seems to have halted with everything moving online.


When you look at the big six in the east, they all have great wing players. The emergence of OG Anunoby defensively has been something great to see, but when he sits, it’s Hollis-Jefferson that will be called on to take that responsibility. He’s proven he can come off the bench using his no fear defensive mentality to stop opposing teams offensive runs.


Nick Nurse in last year's playoffs dropped the benches rotation to just three; Norman Powell, Fred VanVleet and Serge Ibaka. If he did that again this year it leaves either Serge Ibaka or Marc Gasol depending on who gets the starting nod. Then for guards and forwards it looks like it will come down to Norman Powell, Terence Davis, Patrick McCaw, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Chris Boucher.


Hollis-Jefferson has earned those minutes and will be the Raptors best forward option going into their championship title defense.