Royce O’Neale

Scotto’s Latest: J. Smith, Toppin, Weaver, Hartenstein, Huerter, O’Neale, More

Early indications suggest that Pacers power forward Jalen Smith will decline his $5.4MM player option for next season and become an unrestricted free agent, Michael Scotto of HoopsHype reports in his latest aggregate mock draft. Sources tell Scotto that a final decision hasn’t been made, but Smith appears to be leaning toward testing the free agency waters. He has a June 29 deadline to opt in for 2024/25.

Smith, 24, appeared in 61 games this season and posted a career high in scoring at 9.9 PPG, along with 5.5 rebounds and 1.0 assist in 17.2 minutes per night. He was selected 10th overall by Phoenix in the 2020 draft and was acquired by Indiana at the 2022 trade deadline.

Scotto notes that rival teams are watching to see whether the Pacers will re-sign restricted free agent Obi Toppin. If the fourth-year power forward reaches a new deal, there’s a belief that Indiana might be willing to trade Jarace Walker, who was a lottery pick last June.

Scotto shares more inside information in his aggregate draft:

  • Washington is believed to be a potential destination for former Pistons general manager Troy Weaver, who recently parted ways with the team, Scotto writes, noting that Weaver was once part of Oklahoma City’s front office along with Wizards executives Michael Winger and Will Dawkins.
  • Scotto talked with some NBA executives who believe the Magic should be considered a threat to sign Knicks center Isaiah Hartenstein. Orlando could have close to $50MM in cap space to work with.
  • Executives also expect the Kings to explore deals involving Kevin Huerter and Harrison Barnes, Scotto adds.
  • The Raptors plan to work out an extension with Scottie Barnes this summer, sources tell Scotto. The versatile swingman made his first All-Star appearance this year.
  • Scotto echoes other reports in stating that Royce O’Neale is likely to reach a new contract with the Suns. The 31-year-old forward, who was acquired from Brooklyn at the trade deadline, is expected to receive about $10MM per year, according to Scotto.
  • Vice president of basketball operations Brent Barry isn’t expected to return to the Spurs next season, sources tell Scotto. The longtime NBA player has been an executive with San Antonio since 2018.
  • Assistant coach Jason Love will likely leave the Sixers and join Doc Rivers’ staff with the Bucks, Scotto states. Love previously worked for Rivers in Philadelphia.
  • The Hornets are assembling a staff of assistants for new head coach Charles Lee. Scotto hears it will include Lamar SkeeterJosh LongstaffChris JentRyan FrazierZach PetersonMatt Hill and Blaine Mueller.

Pacific Notes: LeBron, Irving, O’Neale, Ballmer

Discussing his former teammate Kyrie Irving on his Mind The Game podcast (YouTube clip), Lakers star LeBron James said he has gotten satisfaction out of watching Irving’s success in Dallas, but admitted that he’s disappointed to no longer be playing with the star guard.

“I’m so f—ing happy and so proud to watch him continue his growth,” James said. “I’m so f—ing mad at the same time that I’m not his running mate anymore.”

As Dave McMenamin of ESPN details, Irving requested a trade out of Cleveland in 2017, in large part due to his desire to get out from under James’ shadow and to have his own team, but the mutual appreciation between the two stars seems to have grown since their days together as Cavaliers.

LeBron was known to be pushing for the Lakers to acquire Irving during multiple transaction cycles before the guard was ultimately sent to Dallas at the 2023 trade deadline. However, with Irving thriving in Dallas and under contract for up to two more seasons, it seems unlikely at this point that he and James will reunite prior to LeBron’s retirement.

James added that he doesn’t view the Mavericks as a significant underdog vs. Boston in the NBA Finals because he views Irving as a potential difference-maker.

“To have a guy like Kyrie Irving as the ultimate wild card,” James said. “It’s like having a Draw 4 in your hand every time someone deals you cards in Uno.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Responding to an ESPN report that said the Suns are expected to retain free agent forward Royce O’Neale, John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 confirmed on The Burns & Gambo show (podcast link) that a new deal between the two sides is likely, but suggested that Phoenix will probably have to offer a longer-term contract to make sure it gets done. “What they’re going to have to three or four years to keep him. Other teams will probably offer him more money on a shorter-term deal,” Gambadoro said. “… What I’m expecting and what I’ve heard is that the Suns will likely go three to four years on an offer to keep Royce O’Neale.”
  • With the TV series ‘Clipped’ debuting this week, Law Murray of The Athletic takes a look back at how Steve Ballmer reset the Clippers‘ culture after buying the team in 2014 following the Donald Sterling scandal. “It was positive in a way,” former Clippers center DeAndre Jordan said of the Sterling situation. “Because we did end up getting one of the greatest sports owners, in my opinion, in Steve. The things that he’s done have been amazing, and I can’t wait to see what he continues to do, especially starting next year (when the Clippers move into their new arena).”
  • In case you missed it, the Lakers are said to be “zeroing in” on J.J. Redick as their next head coach. Get the full story here.

Suns Expected To Retain Royce O’Neale

Suns forward Royce O’Neale is expected to remain with Phoenix this offseason, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his Hoop Collective podcast.

They’re going to re-sign Royce O’Neale,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “That’s going to get done.”

O’Neale, who turns 31 years old on Wednesday, was acquired from Brooklyn in a three-team trade ahead of the February deadline. He appeared in 79 regular season games with the Nets and Suns, averaging 7.7 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists while shooting 37.0% from three-point range in 24.7 minutes per contest.

A former Baylor Bear who started his professional career in Europe, O’Neale has been a solid 3-and-D player for several seasons now. He spent his first five NBA seasons with Utah before being traded to Brooklyn a couple years ago.

Most impending free agents technically can’t negotiate with their current teams until the NBA Finals end later this month. That doesn’t apply to O’Neale, however, because he’s also eligible for a veteran extension.

O’Neale earned $9.5MM in 2023/24 and will likely be in line for a raise. The Suns project to be well over the highly restrictive second tax apron next season and have limited flexibility in how they can build out their team, but they have O’Neale’s Bird rights, meaning they can go over the cap to re-sign him up to his maximum salary.

As long as ownership is willing to foot the bill, Phoenix is actually incentivized to increase O’Neale’s salary in order to have a larger contract for matching purposes — the Suns won’t be able to aggregate salaries in trades due to being over the second tax apron.

Suns Notes: Budenholzer, O’Neale, Eubanks, Gordon, Okogie

New Suns head coach Mike Budenholzer vows to be demanding with the team’s three stars, writes Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports. Among the topics Budenholzer addressed Friday at his introductory press conference is how he plans to get the most out of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal in their second season together.

“I think they know that I’m gonna have high expectations of them,” Budenholzer said. “I’m gonna coach ’em, I’m gonna hold ’em accountable. But that’s what I’m gonna do with everybody. And so it’s not any different. That’s kind of been my roadmap for coaching, whether it’s the best players or the entire roster.”

The Suns were criticized this season for not having a traditional point guard to create easier scoring opportunities for their Big Three. Budenholzer told reporters that’s an area that needs to be looked at this summer as part of the larger picture of creating a more versatile team.

“We need to be able to play different ways, bigger, smaller,” he said. “But I think the point guard position has a place, and we’re gonna talk about it and figure it out. But I just know we’re gonna need to be able to play lots of different ways, including without a point guard.”

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • The competitive nature that Budenholzer showed during his interview helped him land the job as the Suns moved quickly to find a replacement after dismissing Frank Vogel, Bourguet adds in the same piece. “I’m a competitive guy, and we talk about this too: Throughout that process, Bud must have said ‘compete’ 95 times in two minutes,” general manager James Jones said at the press conference. “Compete at everything, compete in practice, compete with each other, against each other. Compete against your opponent, but more importantly, compete with yourself.”
  • Because the Suns are subject to second apron provisions, they might benefit from re-signing free agent forward Royce O’Neale to more than his market value, Keith Smith of Spotrac suggests in his offseason financial look at the team. Phoenix is prohibited from taking back more than it sends out in a trade. Smith states that if O’Neale’s actual value is around $10MM per year, the Suns can increase their trade options by paying around $15MM or by giving him the exact amount of the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, which currently projects to be $12.9MM for 2024/25.
  • Drew Eubanks, Eric Gordon and Josh Okogie are all good bets to decline their player options for next season, according to Smith, who recommends trying to re-sign Eubanks and Gordon to veterans’ minimum contracts this summer with a new player option for the following season. Phoenix holds Early Bird rights on Okogie, so Smith sees a new contract in the $5-8MM range as another way to create tradable salary.

Suns Notes: Budenholzer, Billups, Coaching Search, O’Neale

After initially reporting that Mike Budenholzer will be a “prominent part” of the Suns‘ search for a new head coach following Frank Vogel‘s dismissal, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN (Twitter links) cites sources who say Budenholzer has emerged as the frontrunner for the position. A deal could come together relatively quickly, Wojnarowski adds.

John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 shared a similar report, tweeting that Budenholzer is the “most likely” hire for the Suns. Gambadoro suggested that the search process won’t last long, with perhaps just two or three candidates receiving serious consideration.

According to Wojnarowski, Budenholzer has been preparing for the possibility of returning to an NBA head coaching job by working on assembling a potential staff. He has also been mentioned as a possibility for the Lakers, but it sounds as if there’s more momentum toward a deal with Phoenix.

Here’s more on the Suns:

  • Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports (Twitter link) has heard that Chauncey Billups would have support from Suns players as a head coaching candidate. Billups played on Team USA with Kevin Durant in 2010 and is a “known admirer” of Devin Booker, Sean Highkin of Rose Garden Report points out (via Twitter). Of course, Billups is still under contract as the Trail Blazers‘ head coach, but previous reporting indicated that teams around the NBA are keeping an eye on that situation.
  • Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports takes a look at a handful of possible candidates to replace Vogel, discussing four other potential targets besides Budenholzer and Billups.
  • Should the Timberwolves’ road dominance in the first two games of their series vs. the Nuggets change the way the Suns view their four consecutive playoff losses to Minnesota? Bourguet explores that question in an article for the PHNX newsletter.
  • In one more story for PHNX Sports, Bourguet lays out why re-signing unrestricted free agent forward Royce O’Neale is the only logical option for Phoenix this offseason, since the team would have no real way to replace him with a similar player if he walks.

Suns Notes: Narratives, Future, Olympics, Jones

After getting swept out of the first round of this year’s playoffs by the Timberwolves, the Suns face a potentially very expensive future, writes Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report.

The Suns have limited options for improving the team around their current starting lineup of All-Stars Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, plus former All-Star Bradley Beal, center Jusuf Nurkic, and swingman Grayson Allen. Pincus notes that the Suns may look to offload one of their three priciest players in Durant, Beal or even Booker to add higher-quality role player help.

The Suns’ payroll could head north of $213MM next year, far above the league’s second tax apron of $189.5MM. That will greatly impede some of the team-building options previously open to tax-paying teams.

Pincus believes Phoenix will strive to hold onto combo forward Royce O’Neale this summer and thinks the Suns should at least explore offloading Nassir Little‘s $6.8MM contract.

There’s more out of Phoenix:

  • Though things do look dire for the Suns now, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports takes pains to push back on five “annoying” Phoenix-relative narratives heading into a long offseason, suggesting that the team has a bit more opportunity and higher upside than it might appear. For instance, though the Suns don’t control their own draft picks in the immediate future, the team will still have at least some picks, including first-rounders. Bourguet also believes the club’s current core might just need more time playing together to truly become successful in the playoffs.
  • The 2024 Olympics in Paris could have an impact on the fates of the Suns’ stars, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN (YouTube video link) details. “Kevin Durant has reached a point in his career where his future is basically determined by him, and so where he’s at is going to be very important,” Windhorst said. “One variable… is that this summer is an Olympic summer. Team USA is gathering, and this is the biggest gathering of star players on Team USA since the Beijing Olympics in 2008. We have never seen this collection of stars who have committed over basically the last decade-and-a-half. On that team will be Devin Booker and Kevin Durant, they have committed to play in it… Let’s see where everybody’s mood is after the Olympics experience is, because you know that Team USA always opens up doors for big things to happen with star players.”
  • Following pressers from both Suns owner Mat Ishbia and general manager James Jones on Wednesday, Doug Haller of The Athletic seems convinced the team will not look to move on from its starting five. The club’s three stars — Durant, Booker, and Beal — only suited up for 41 regular season contests together, and key Phoenix decision-makers believe they have room to grow together. The club will at least talk about acquiring a true starting-caliber point guard, Haller notes. “We’ll go through every channel,” Jones said. “We’ll explore every scenario to add and build our team. It’s important to remember that we’re starting with six, seven, eight, really good core players. And when you’re talking about building on the margins, I think we have more than enough to do that effectively.”

Suns Notes: Vogel, Jones, Offseason Priorities, Second Apron, Beal

The Suns will take “a hard look” at a coaching change after being swept out of the playoffs by Minnesota, sources tell Shams Charania and Doug Haller of The Athletic. If Frank Vogel is retained, management will consider making adjustments to his staff, according to the authors, who add that general manager James Jones will be kept in his current role.

Vogel still has four seasons remaining on the $31MM contract he received when he was hired last June. He was 49-33 in his first year with Phoenix and the team made a late charge to claim the sixth seed in the West, but there were concerns by the end of the season that his voice was no longer resonating with his players, Charania and Haller write.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported before Sunday’s game that Vogel’s future is in jeopardy. In a meeting with reporters before the contest, Vogel expressed confidence that he will remain the team’s coach (video link), telling reporters, “I’ve got full confidence from (owner) Mat Ishbia.”

But Charania and Haller wonder how patient Ishbia will be after spending heavily to add Kevin Durant and Bradley Beal to form a Big Three alongside Devin Booker. That approach was shaky throughout the regular season, and it fell apart completely in the playoffs against the less experienced Timberwolves.

The Suns already have to replace lead assistant Kevin Young, who was in charge of the team’s offensive game plans. Young accepted the head coaching job at BYU two weeks ago, but agreed to remain with Phoenix through the end of its playoff run.

There’s more from Phoenix:

  • The Suns plan to keep the core of the team together and build around Booker, Durant, Beal, Grayson Allen, Jusuf Nurkic and Royce O’Neale, according to Charania and Haller. Allen recently agreed to a four-year, $70MM extension, but O’Neale, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, will have to be re-signed. The team will also be on the lookout for available veterans to help build a more professional atmosphere in the locker room, sources tell the authors.
  • John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7 expects a “cooling-off period” before Ishbia makes any decisions about his coaching staff (Twitter link). He also notes that finding a traditional point guard will be necessary this offseason as neither Booker or Beal appeared fully comfortable filling that role. Gambadoro also sees a need for a backup center and more size at the wing, pointing out that Phoenix was out-rebounded by a 185-130 margin during the four-game series.
  • The Suns’ offseason options will be limited because they’re now operating under full second-apron rules, tweets Keith Smith of Spotrac. Among those restrictions, the team can’t aggregate players in trades or take back more money than is sent out in any deal. The Suns won’t have access to the mid-level exception and can only sign their draft picks and add players on minimum contracts.
  • Although Beal is widely considered to be untradeable with a contract that pays him $161MM over the next three seasons, Sam Vecenie of the Athletic believes the Suns could find a market if they decide to move him (Twitter link). He sees possible interest from the Kings if they lose Malik Monk in free agency, the Bulls if they trade DeMar DeRozan, or the Sixers if they can’t land a significant free agent with their available cap space. Beal still has a no-trade clause though and would have to approve any deal.

Pacific Notes: Monk, Murray, Warriors, Suns, O’Neale

Asked earlier this week about Malik Monk‘s recovery from an MCL sprain, Shams Charania of The Athletic said during an appearance on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) that the Kings guard still isn’t anywhere close to returning to action.

“Malik Monk is going to be out well into April and May. He’s not going to return anywhere in this play-in tournament (or) the first round,” Charania said. “The Kings are preparing to move forward here – if they do they make it into the playoffs – for at least the first round without Malik Monk.”

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Monk didn’t rule out the possibility of making it back during the first round if the Kings advance, but admitted that he doesn’t yet have a clear idea of what his timeline will look like, since he hasn’t gotten back on the court or done any running yet (Twitter video link). Sacramento is expected to reevaluate him around April 27.

Following a win over Golden State on Tuesday, the Kings will be in New Orleans on Friday facing a banged-up Pelicans team that will be missing star forward Zion Williamson, so there’s a path to the No. 8 seed for Sacramento. Still, it sounds as if the Kings would probably need to knock off the No. 1 Thunder in the first round to have a chance to see Monk back in action this spring.

Monk will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, with the Kings holding his Early Bird rights.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Kings star De’Aaron Fox put in significant time last offseason training with second-year forward Keegan Murray, so Fox was thrilled to see the former No. 4 overall pick have a huge game on Tuesday, writes Hunter Patterson of The Athletic. Murray scored a game-high 32 points in Sacramento’s play-in victory over Golden State. “Just seeing his development, and how different he’s been,” Fox said. “… Obviously we want to see it on a consistent basis. But just seeing that come to fruition and seeing the work he put in all summer, especially on a big stage like this, it’s definitely great to see.”
  • Within a look at what’s next for the Warriors, Logan Murdock of The Ringer says league sources believe Andrew Wiggins will be included in trade discussions this offseason. Stephen Curry told Murdock that continuing to push toward contention is his top priority. “I want to win,” Curry said. “Plain and simple. It’s not my job to make all of those decisions, but it’s my job to hold people accountable and say I want to win, and I’ll give my input, but I just want to win.”
  • An unrestricted free agent this offseason, veteran forward Royce O’Neale suggested that he has enjoyed his time in Phoenix and would be open to re-signing with the Suns. “Yeah, for sure. It’s a great place, team, organization,” O’Neale said (Twitter video link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports). “It’s been great since I’ve been here, since day one.”
  • Already projected to be over the second tax apron next season, the Suns may be motivated to re-sign O’Neale since they’ll have limited resources to add outside talent. But a new deal for the forward would exponentially increase the projected luxury tax bill for team owner Mat Ishbia. “(Ishbia)’s gonna cost himself a s—ton of money under the new collective bargaining agreement,” one opposing executive told Steve Bulpett of “He just is. If he wants to pay it, that’s fine. The point is that he’s mortgaged everything on this current group here, and once this runs its course … that is, when (Kevin Durant) starts to slow down — and he hasn’t yet; he’s still very good — they’re going to be in a tough situation.”

Pacific Notes: O’Neale, Allen, Hyland, Leonard, Monk, Sabonis

Suns coach Frank Vogel switched up his rotation in the team’s 124-108 win over the Clippers on Wednesday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. Royce O’Neale was inserted into the lineup in place of Grayson Allen, while Thaddeus Young replaced Drew Eubanks as the backup center.

However, the Suns could go right back to Allen as the starter against Sacramento on Friday. “It’s just something we’ve been talking about,” Vogel said. “If we get into a playoff matchup where we have a bigger opponent, then we feel like (O’Neale’s) size in the starting lineup is something that would make sense. We didn’t want to go to that with Grayson coming off the bench for the first time having never done it. We used this one game to let Grayson just feel the rhythm of coming off the bench, if it’s needed in the playoffs.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Ivica Zubac and Norman Powell sat out the second game of a back-to-back on Wednesday. Bones Hyland carried the Clippers‘ offense in their absence, pumping in a career-high 37 points, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register notes. Leonard sat out his sixth consecutive game because of inflammation in his right knee. He might not return until the postseason but coach Tyronn Lue believes his superstar forward will be ready to go by that point.
  • Kings guard Malik Monk was the solid frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award until he suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee late last month. Center Domantas Sabonis said Monk still deserves the honor. “Monk has to win it,” Sabonis told HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. “If he doesn’t win it, it’s rigged. He definitely brings energy and light. If we’re down, he’s always up and in a good mood off the court, too, so that really helps during a long season with ups and downs.” Coach Mike Brown concurs. “It should not even be a debate on Sixth Man of the Year with Malik’s body of work and us fighting for a playoff spot,” Brown said. “He should be the hands-down winner.”
  • Monk will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Sacramento has Early Bird rights on Monk and can sign him up to $78MM over four years. “I’d love to play here again, for sure. I’ve been here for two years and made friends with everyone, including the training staff and front office,” Monk told Scotto. Sabonis said the organization can’t afford to lose him: “We’ve got to keep him. He’s a big piece for us moving forward.”
  • Sabonis saw his 61-game double-double streak end on Tuesday, Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press writes. He had eight points and 13 rebounds against Oklahoma City. It’s the seventh-longest streak in league history and the longest since the NBA and ABA merged prior to the 1976/77 season.

Pacific Notes: Kuminga, Thompson, George, O’Neale, Harding

Some rest and a new role did Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga a world of good on Sunday. After missing six games due to tendinitis in both knees, Kuminga had 21 points and 10 rebounds on 9-of-11 shooting in 27 minutes off the bench against the Jazz.

“I wasn’t concerned about coming off the bench,” Kuminga told The Athletic’s Anthony Slater.

Warriors head coach Steve Kerr is currently using Trayce Jackson-Davis alongside Draymond Green at the power forward and center spots.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Klay Thompson, who is headed to free agency, has improved his stock since the All-Star break, Tim Kawakami of The Athletic notes. The longtime Warriors shooting guard erupted for 32 points against the Jazz on Sunday and has proven durable, appearing in 74 games this season. While he has lost lateral movement defensively and isn’t as consistent offensively than he was in his prime, Thompson might end up more valuable to another team than what the Warriors want to pay him, Kawakami adds. He’s averaging 18.3 points per game and shooting 40.6% from deep since the break.
  • Paul George, who holds a $48.8MM option on his contract for next season, poured in 23 of his 39 points against Cleveland during the fourth quarter as the Clippers erased a 26-point deficit on Sunday. George, who has had more than his share of physical issues in recent seasons, showed that he’s feeling good with the postseason looming by playing 44 minutes, including the entire second half, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk notes. “I wanted to stay in and I just felt we were making a good push,” George said.
  • Royce O’Neale doesn’t have much of an incentive to sign an extension with the Suns prior to the summer, John Gambadoro of 98.7 FM Phoenix notes (Twitter link). Right now, the Suns are limited to just a two-year, $20.5MM extension. However, Phoenix can offer him up to five years in the summer since it holds O’Neale’s Bird rights. A contract in the $13-14MM annual range for three or four years might work for both sides, Gambadoro speculates.
  • Lindsey Harding was named the NBA G League’s Coach of the Year, a first for a female coach. Andscape’s Marc J. Spears spoke with Harding on how she was able to succeed in her first season with the Kings’ affiliate in Stockton.