Prescott Valley, Ariz. – The Northern Arizona Suns drafted Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson with the sixth overall pick in the 2017 NBA G League Draft.
Hollis-Jefferson hadn’t played in the NBA’s development league since 2014-15. He entered the draft in 2017 after having a great year playing in the National Basketball League of Canada. He won Defensive Player of the Year honors there, averaging 18.1 points on 46.5 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.2 steals per game for the Orangeville A’s. Playing in 38 contests, his 2.2 steals per game average led the entire league, and he was 16th in the league with 0.92 blocks per game.
On Wednesday, Grand Rapids Drive center Landry Nnoko was named the 2017-18 NBA G League Defensive Player of the Year. Although Hollis-Jefferson wasn’t among the top three in the running for the award, voted on by the league’s 26 head coaches and general managers, he had to have been close.
The 26-year-old was the only player in the league this season to tally at least 70 steals and 40 blocks, doing so by a wide margin in one category. He finished the year with 71 steals and 51 blocks, finishing with 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks per game.
Although he didn't win Defensive Player of the Year, Rahlir Hollis-Jefferson was the ONLY player in the @nbagleague with at least 70 steals and 40 blocks on the season.@RJ_32 had 71 steals and 51 blocks 😳 pic.twitter.com/K7QyikJlvO
— Northern AZ Suns (@nazsuns) April 5, 2018
His 1.5 steals average was good for 24th best in the league, his 1.1 blocks average was 25th best. So yes, neither average was in the top 20, but the fact he was so high up in both defensive categories was rare. In fact, Hollis-Jefferson was one of just two players in the league with averages of at least 1.5 steals and 1.1 blocks, joining former NAZ Suns forward Chris McCullough, who played in 36 fewer games.
The University of Temple alum played for the Detroit Pistons Summer League team last year, so after showing improvements in all facets of his game this year he should have another busy summer.
Across the board, Hollis-Jefferson averaged new career-highs in the NBA G league this past season. He posted 9.9 points (48.1 FG%, 35.2 3FG%, 74.0 FT%), 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game, to go along with his career-best averages in steals and blocks.
He played the third most minutes on the team (1,210), playing three more games than anyone else (48, next highest was 45 by Josh Gray).
The 2017-18 season may have been a giant step toward making an NBA roster for Hollis-Jefferson.