Royce O'Neale

Fischer’s Latest: Turner, Sixers, Thybulle, Jazz, Micic

As the Pacers continue to weigh the possibility of trading center Myles Turner, the Timberwolves, Raptors, and Hornets are among the teams believed to be interested, writes Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report.

According to Fischer, the Knicks have showed interest in Turner in recent years too, but the expectation is that they’d only be a serious suitor for the big man if Mitchell Robinson leaves in free agency.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • The Sixers have called “a healthy portion” of the teams around the NBA in an effort to gauge their interest in Tobias Harris, Danny Green, and Matisse Thybulle, sources tell Bleacher Report. Fischer suggests Philadelphia has been trying to find teams that would give up a first-round pick for Thybulle as part of a three-team trade that would send an impact veteran rotation to the 76ers.
  • The Jazz are seeking a first-round pick in exchange for any of their rotation players besides Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, according to Fischer, who adds that Royce O’Neale is generating significant trade interest around the NBA.
  • Nikola Jokic is thought to be a “driving factor” in the Nuggets‘ interest in Serbian point guard Vasilije Micic, a draft-and-stash EuroLeague star whose NBA rights are held by the Thunder. The Spurs, Bucks, and Bulls have also been mentioned as potential suitors for Micic, Fischer reports.

Fischer’s Latest: Jazz, Conley, Snyder, Popovich, Graham

Speculation about the potential breakup of Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert appears to be fueled more by people outside of the Jazz organization than those within it, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report, who says sources from the team and around the NBA believe that CAA has been responsible for many of the whispers involving Mitchell’s future.

According to Fischer, team owner Ryan Smith is willing to spend big on a contender, and Utah has no plans to rebuild. Smith also likes the idea of having multiple players in the 2023 All-Star Game, which the Jazz will host.

Although some rival executives believe a Gobert trade is a possibility and view the Mavericks, Hawks, and Raptors as potential destinations, Fischer says the Jazz are focused on upgrading their defense, so moving a three-time Defensive Player of the Year seems counterintuitive. On the other hand, complementary players like Bojan Bogdanovic, Royce O’Neale, and perhaps even Mike Conley are considered more realistic trade candidates.

Fischer wonders if the Clippers or the Knicks might have interest in Conley, another CAA client. With the Jazz seeking help on the wing, Evan Fournier could theoretically headline a Knicks offer for Conley if they miss out on Jalen Brunson, says Fischer, though he notes that some staffers in New York would prefer to stay in-house and give Immanuel Quickley an expanded role.

As for the Clippers, Fischer is skeptical that a Conley trade offer centered around sharpshooter Luke Kennard would appeal to a Utah team looking to improve its defense and suggests that a more realistic point guard target for L.A. would be John Wall, assuming he and the Rockets work out a buyout. Wall has also been linked to the Heat, but Fischer’s sources believe Miami’s interest predated last year’s acquisition of Kyle Lowry.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • There’s “little expectation” among people close to the situation that Quin Snyder will leave the Jazz before his contract expires in 2023, says Fischer. Snyder also holds an option for the 2023/24 season.
  • Jazz CEO Danny Ainge doesn’t appear inclined to shake up the team’s basketball operations department. According to Fischer, major changes would likely only occur if former head of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey gets a top front office job elsewhere and wants to bring some Utah executives with him.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, who is traveling and considering his coaching future, plans to visit Belgrade for the EuroLeague Final Four later this month, a source tells Fischer. The general sense is that Popovich seems interested in coaching San Antonio for at least one more season, Fischer adds.
  • The Pelicans are among the teams believed to be considering a possible point guard upgrade this offseason, reports Fischer. Devonte’ Graham saw his role reduced significantly in the playoffs and some people around the league think he could end up on the trade block this offseason, but sources tell Fischer the Pels aren’t motivated to move on from Graham like they were with Eric Bledsoe a year ago.

Jazz Notes: Mitchell, Gobert, Snyder, Offseason

Following the Game 6 loss to Dallas that ended their season on Thursday night, the Jazz face an offseason of potential change. Asked after the game about what the future looks like, center Rudy Gobert and guard Jordan Clarkson both expressed a desire to remain in Utah, but acknowledged that decision could be out of their control, per Eric Walden of The Salt Lake Tribune (Twitter links).

While forward Royce O’Neale asserted that “this group wants to stay together,” Gobert expressed uncertainty when he was asked whether the current roster has reached its ceiling (Twitter links via Walden).

“I don’t know,” Gobert said. “We have a lot of talent. This year we faced more adversity. I feel like we could be so much better. … You try to ask yourself why we can’t be consistent.”

As for star guard Donovan Mitchell, he said yes when he was asked after the game whether he wants to stick with the Jazz, writes Andy Larsen of The Salt Lake Tribune. When he was later asked to address speculation about the possibility of him eventually asking for a trade, Mitchell was less equivocal, but gave no indication that such a request is on his mind in the short term.

“My mindset is to win,” he said. “Right now, I’m not really looking at that. I answered (the first) question, and you could take that. But for me, I just want to win, yo. Like, this hurts. And like I said, I’ll think about it in a week and go from there. But right now, I’m not thinking at all about that.”

Here’s more on the Jazz:

  • Tony Jones of The Athletic expects significant roster changes in Utah this summer, writing that at least one starter will likely be playing elsewhere next season. However, he hears from sources that the Jazz are committed to building around Mitchell and don’t plan to fully blow up the roster. If the team is open to trading Gobert, there are multiple teams that would be interested, but sources tell Jones that the three-time Defensive player of the Year remains “all in” on the Jazz and would like to spend the rest of his career with the organization.
  • Within the same story, Jones says that Quin Snyder‘s future will be determined one way or the other in “the coming days and weeks.” Sources tell The Athletic that Utah’s front office has been happy with the job Snyder has done and that he hasn’t lost the locker room, so if a coaching change occurs, Snyder may be the one instigating it.
  • In his offseason preview for the Jazz, ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) argues that the team should remain focused on building around Mitchell and Gobert rather than breaking them up. While Utah has been hurt by small-ball lineups in playoff series in recent years, Marks says that’s more an indictment of the club’s perimeter defense than of Gobert.
  • Even before Utah’s Game 6 loss on Thursday, Zach Kram of The Ringer contended that it was time for the franchise to admit its roster shortcomings and prepare to shake things up this summer. Kram explores whether it would be in the Jazz’s best interests to consider trading Gobert or Mitchell — or even both.

Fischer’s Latest: Simmons, Beal, J. Richardson, Jazz, Kemba

Having claimed earlier in the week that the Sixers hadn’t really been able to get in touch with Ben Simmons this offseason, Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report clarifies in his latest article that the team’s brass has maintained contact with Simmons and his representatives. However, the 76ers have been “unable to collaborate” so far on a summer development plan for the former No. 1 pick.

Although league executives who have spoken to Fischer speculate that the Sixers may try to hang onto Simmons in the hopes that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard will eventually ask out of Portland, the “overwhelming” expectation is that Simmons will be dealt before the start of the 2021/22 season. Of the early discussions Philadelphia has had about the Defensive Player of the Year runner-up, talks with the Raptors are thought to be the most advanced, Fischer adds.

Here’s more from Fischer:

  • As Bradley Beal continues to weigh his future with the Wizards, there’s a growing expectation around the league that the All-Star guard might still decide he wants to stay in D.C., says Fischer.
  • The Mavericks have explored trade scenarios involving Josh Richardson, according to Fischer. Richardson still has to make a decision on his $11.6MM player option for 2021/22, but if he opts in, his expiring contract represents a logical trade chip if Dallas wants the flexibility to make a run at a top free agent.
  • After previously identifying Bojan Bogdanovic, Joe Ingles, and Royce O’Neale as potential trade candidates if the Jazz look to trim team salary, Fischer now says O’Neale is likely to stick around, but Bogdanovic and/or Ingles could still be moved. Utah has also explored the possibility of trading Derrick Favors along with the No. 30 pick, Fischer adds.
  • The Thunder‘s front office believes it should be able to flip Kemba Walker for assets this summer if his medicals are good, according to Fischer (Twitter link). Walker’s contract, which has two years and $73.7MM left on it, isn’t favorable, so Oklahoma City would likely need to take on an equally bad deal – or multiple unwanted contracts – in order to acquire assets with positive value.

Fischer’s Latest: Simmons, Lillard, Warriors, Ingles, Draft Deals, More

There has been little movement on the Ben Simmons situation, as none of the interested teams are offering an All-Star level player to the Sixers in return, according to Jake Fischer of Bleacher Report. He adds that many observers believe president of basketball operations Daryl Morey is waiting for Trail Blazers guard Damian Lillard to return from the Olympics to see if he makes a trade request.

The Cavaliers, Pacers, Timberwolves, Kings and Raptors have all shown interest in trading for Simmons, sources tell Fischer. Executives from several of those teams said they view him as a play-making forward, rather than a point guard as he has been used in Philadelphia.

Simmons remains under contract for four more seasons, so there’s no urgency for the Sixers to make a move right away. Still, the “overwhelming expectation” across the league is that he will be traded during the offseason after struggling with his shot during the playoffs.

Fischer shares more inside information from around the NBA:

  • The Warriors would like to swap their two lottery picks for veteran help, but president of basketball operations Bob Myers isn’t finding many impact players available on the trade market. The Jazz could emerge as a possibility, Fischer adds, as Utah is hoping to shed some salary before re-signing point guard Mike Conley. Joe Ingles might be moved in such a deal, and Bojan Bogdanovic and Royce O’Neale are also possibilities.
  • The Kings, who hold the No. 9 pick in Thursday’s draft, may be the highest option for teams hoping to trade into the lottery. Sacramento and the Pelicans, who have the 10th selection, have been active in trade talks involving those picks, sources tell Fischer, as both teams are looking for veterans who will give them a better chance to make the playoffs next season. New Orleans, which is hoping to unload Eric Bledsoe‘s salary, has talked to the Grizzlies about a deal that would send the veteran guard and the No. 10 pick to Memphis in exchange for the 17th choice.
  • The Hornets at No. 11 and the Pacers at No. 13 may also make their picks available. Fischer confirms that Indiana has talked to the Rockets about a deal involving Eric Gordon and the 23rd pick, and Myles Turner is believed to be on the trade market as well.

Jazz Moving Joe Ingles Out Of Starting Lineup

3:33pm: The Jazz have changed their minds on removing Conley from the starting lineup and will instead move Ingles to the bench, according to Charania and Jones (via Twitter). The move will have a similar effect on the rotation balance, with a defensive specialist who doesn’t need the ball replacing a ball-handler in the starting five.

2:01pm: The slumping Jazz are shaking up their starting five, according to Shams Charania and Tony Jones of The Athletic, who report that forward Royce O’Neale will replace point guard Mike Conley in the team’s lineup. The change will go into effect beginning on Wednesday night against Boston, per Charania and Jones.

Conley is Utah’s highest-paid player and was the team’s major acquisition in the summer of 2019. However, he has struggled to adjust to his new NBA home this season, battling injuries over the course of the year and underperforming when he’s healthy enough to play. In 34 games (27.9 MPG), Conley has averaged just 13.4 PPG, 4.1 APG, and a .394 FG%, all of which are among the worst marks of his 13-year career.

As Charania and Jones explain, the Jazz believe that the lineup change will balance their rotation a little better, allowing Joe Ingles to take on more of an offensive role with the starters while O’Neale – the team’s best perimeter defender – handles the toughest assignments on the other end of the court. Conley will come off the bench and look to provide an offensive punch alongside Jordan Clarkson.

It has been an up-and-down season in Utah not just for Conley but for the Jazz as a whole. After a modest 13-11 start, the club won 19 of 21 of its next games. Since pushing their record to 32-13 though, the Jazz have endured a pair of losing streaks, winning just four of their last 12 contests. The roller-coaster season has left the team searching for an identity, Tim MacMahon of ESPN wrote today.

Despite their recent struggles, the Jazz are still fifth in the Western Conference, just one game back of the Rockets for home-court advantage in the first round. Utah will hope that its latest lineup change has a positive impact on its push for a top-four seed.

Northwest Notes: Teague, MPJ, Blazers, O’Neale

Point guard Jeff Teague felt that it was only a matter of time before the new Timberwolves regime traded him. That came to pass in a Friday deal with the Hawks. “I came from the [Tom Thibodeau] regime, and I knew they [GM Gersson Rosas and head coach Ryan Saunders] wanted to get their guys in there,” Teague explained, according to The Athletic’s Chris Kirschner.

“It was very difficult because I went there to play with Thibs, Jimmy [Butler], [Derrick] Rose and Taj [Gibson],” Teague continued. “That’s what I had envisioned for my whole time that I was going to be there.” Teague is in the final season of a three-year, $57MM contract he signed with the Timberwolves in 2017.

There’s more out of the Northwest Division:

  • Intriguing rookie Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. has shown enough defensive improvement to lock in rotation minutes for coach Michael Malone, according to Mike Singer of the Denver Post. Since Christmas, Porter has been averaging nearly 11 PPG on a team-high 65.4% field goal percentage, including 48.3% from long distance. But Malone had special praise for his defense. “You see the improvement,” Malone said. “Understanding what our game plan is, what our rules are.”
  • Yesterday’s five-player trade that sent Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver and two second-round draft picks to the Kings in exchange for Trevor Ariza, Wenyen Gabriel and Caleb Swanigan and saved the Trail Blazers $12.6MM off their cap bill this season. John Hollinger of The Athletic speculates that the Trail Blazers may be making further deals to get the team under the tax line for even more savings. Portland currently sits at a paltry 18-26 record and the No. 11 seed in the West, three games behind current N0. 8 seed Memphis.
  • After Jazz forward Royce O’Neale inked a four-year, $36MM extension today, Utah GM Justin Zanik and executive VP of basketball operations Dennis Lindsey spoke with reporters, including Aaron Falk of Jazz.com, about the deal. Lindsey spoke to the import of complementary role players like O’Neale as the team builds a contender around centerpieces Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell. “It goes beyond Donovan and Rudy,” Lindsey said. “As Donovan’s and Rudy’s decisions come up, they can see a core they can win with and see that we’re serious.”

Royce O’Neale Signs Four-Year Extension With Jazz

12:32pm: The extension is official, the Jazz announced on Twitter.

11:43am: Royce O’Neale has agreed to a four-year, $36MM extension with the Jazz, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The news was confirmed by O’Neale’s agents, Ty Sullivan and Steven Heumann of CAA Sports, who say their client plans to sign the deal today.

The third-year forward is making $1.6MM this season and was headed for restricted free agency this summer. He became a full-time starter this season and is averaging career highs with 6.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 44.3% from 3-point range. He’s also a defensive specialist who often takes on the opponent’s toughest matchup.

O’Neale went undrafted out of Baylor and played two seasons in Europe before signing with the Jazz in 2017. Wojnarowski notes that he’s the latest success story for a Utah franchise that puts heavy emphasis on player development.

The extension gives the Jazz 14 players under contract for the 2020/21 season, including their first-round pick, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. The team is $18MM under the projected tax line and still has a $9.8MM mid-level and a $3.9MM biannual exception to work with. Upcoming free agents are Jordan Clarkson, whom the team has Bird rights on, and Emmanuel Mudiay.

Western Notes: O’Neale, Dirk, McLemore, Baynes

Royce O’Neale, who is the Jazz‘s most trusted perimeter defender, is aiming this season to improve the accuracy and volume of his three-point shot on the other end of the court.

As Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com details, O’Neale three-point percentage is up to a career-best 47.9% this season, but he’s attempting just 3.1 per 36 minutes, the lowest rate of his career. That’s prompting his teammates and Jazz coaches to encourage him to look more for his shot.

“You have to shoot it,” Jazz point guard Mike Conley said. “I’m trying my best to tell him to shoot it every time. I get mad [when he doesn’t].”

It’s a big year for O’Neale, who will be eligible for restricted free agency during the summer of 2020. If he can continue to prove that he’s a reliable, consistent three-and-D option, the 26-year-old should be in line for a nice payday when his minimum-salary deal expires, whether or not he remains with the Jazz.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Just in case there was any doubt, longtime Mavericks power forward Dirk Nowitzki confirmed that he won’t be following in the footsteps of fellow Dallas athlete Jason Witten by coming out of retirement after a year (Twitter link via Mark Medina of USA Today). Oh man. I wish,” said Nowitzki, who attended the Mavs’ Sunday win over the Lakers. “But my foot is not great. My health is not there anymore where it needs to be to compete and go up and down every day.
  • Ben McLemore, one of three Rockets players without a fully guaranteed 2019/20 salary, has taken on a crucial rotation role as of late, starting five of the club’s last nine games. While McLemore has been significantly better as a starter, he’s confident that his numbers as a reserve will come around if he returns to a full-time bench role. “It’s about keeping my game simple, especially with this team,” McLemore said, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I’m trying to do the best I can each and every night and be consistent. Things will shake out for me soon.”
  • Offseason acquisition Aron Baynes, who returned to the Suns‘ lineup on Friday after missing five games due to a hip injury, has quickly become a veteran leader and a major on-court contributor for his new team, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Northwest Notes: Porter Jr., Craig, Culver, O’Neale

Amid the news that the team has picked up his option for the 2020/21 season, forward Michael Porter Jr. is eager to take the court for the first time with the Nuggets, Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports. Porter will make his preseason debut against Portland on Tuesday. He missed all of last season with a back injury after being drafted No. 14 overall and didn’t play any summer league games due to a knee injury.

“I feel like I’ve prepared my whole life to be an NBA player,” the Nuggets’ forward said. “It’s crazy because I watch these players growing up and now we’re on the same court. I kind of had to have a mindset change. These are my opponents. I can’t be a fan of these dudes anymore.”

We have more from the Northwest Division:

  • Torrey Craig will open the season as the Nuggets’ starting small forward, Nick Kosmider of The Athletic predicts. He’s the best defensive option at that spot and has made improvements to his offensive game. “Torrey shot lights out in September and he’s shot it very well in camp,” coach Michael Malone told Kosmider. “If he shoots it the way he did in the playoffs, he’s going to be a guy who is hard to keep off the floor.” Craig made 47.2% of his three-point attempts in 14 playoff games, compared to his 32.4% showing in the regular season.
  • Lottery pick Jarrett Culver has wasted no time making a strong impression at Timberwolves camp, the team’s play-by-play announcer Alan Horton tweets. Coach Ryan Saunders said Culver has been the early standout in the preseason. “He’s definitely made some plays that make you look around and say wow,” Saunders said. “Now those might be normal plays for someone who’s been in the league, but for a rookie in his first couple of days, it was impressive.”
  • With the departures of Derrick Favors and Jae Crowder, forward Royce O’Neale could play an even bigger role with the Jazz this season, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune reports. O’Neale appeared in every regular-season game last season, averaging 20.4 MPG.  Coach Quin Snyder is experimenting with the 6’6” O’Neale playing power forward in small ball lineups. “[I’m] just trying to be a leader, [trying to] step up, helping out on defense, helping new guys any way I can,” O’Neale said.