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The underappreciated development of Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

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NBA: Charlotte Hornets at Brooklyn Nets Nicole Sweet-USA TODAY Sports

When examples of development are needed to argue on behalf of Sean Marks and Kenny Atkinson’s stewardship of the Nets, the names most commonly cited are those of Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen.

But what about Rondae Hollis-Jefferson, the most senior Net in terms of time in Brooklyn? As Mike Scotto notes in “The Athletic,” RHJ’s numbers —and maturity— are hard to dismiss.

According to Basketball-Reference, Hollis-Jefferson dramatically improved his shooting percentage in the 10-16 feet range from last season (.347) to this season (.477). Hollis-Jefferson made a living by posting up on the left side of the block and used a jab step routinely to set up a face-up jumper or drive to the rim. More touches in the post also resulted in the highest amount of free throws attempted (4.6) in his career. Hollis-Jefferson also shot a career-high from the field overall (.472) and free throw line (.788) thanks to his progression as a post presence.

Hollis-Jefferson, still only 23, averaged 13.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, 2.5 assists in his new role as a small-ball power forward ... without a dropoff in his signature defense. Moreover, he made the transition from hopeful 3 to confident 4.

“The way the game’s going, I feel like, now, that’s definitely my natural fit,” Hollis-Jefferson said. “For the most part, it was tough because most of the fours have been in the league for a while. They pretty much all have 15-plus pounds on me, some 30, but for the most part, I think it’s about how hard you compete at the end of the day and coming out being ready to match that physicality, to match their energy.”

He’s improved so much —and has more potential— that Bobby Marks suggested last month that extending RHJ this summer should be a priority.

“The Nets should not let Hollis-Jefferson enter free agency in 2019,” argued the former Nets assistant GM. “Yes, they will be protected by his restricted status, but Hollis-Jefferson is the type of modern forward teams look to acquire -- one who can guard up to four positions and produce on the offensive end (high-level midrange game), and he is still only 23 years old.”

There’s no indication the Nets are planning that, but they are planning for improvements in Hollis-Jefferson’s game that should make him more valuable. It starts with developing a reliable 3-point shot.

“Shooting less mid-range and adding threes,” Hollis-Jefferson said last month. “I would say just adding that to my game, I feel like would be better for our team and for myself just because of analytics, efficiency. You want to do what’s best at the end of the day to make your team better. Coaches want it, the staff wants it, teammates want it, so I’m all for it.”

Hollis-Jefferson had a modest improvement in his deep shooting, going from 22.4 percent to 24.1. No one is setting goals (that we know of), but getting him past 33.3 percent would be a big help. And RHJ has confidence in the development team in Brooklyn.

“The program’s great. Just the structure, the organization, everything that they have in place is phenomenal and we believe in it,” said Hollis-Jefferson. ‘I think that’s the biggest part, believing and trusting in a process, which makes things a lot easier for their side and ours. Because when you’re aligned, I feel like that’s when you get the best out of everything.”