Royce O'Neale

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.

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Jazz, Nuggets, Wolves

While the Jazz‘ 2019 playoff run was short-lived, Royce O’Neale‘s performance in the team’s five-game series vs. Houston was encouraging. A role player who averaged 20.4 minutes per game during the regular season, O’Neale increased his averages across the board against the Rockets, recording 10.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG in 27.4 MPG.

The 25-year-old forward was also frequently tasked with the defensive assignment of guarding James Harden, and said that the MVP candidate gave him words of “encouragement and motivation” at the end of the series, as Aaron Falk of UtahJazz.com details.

“Just goes to show all the hard work that I’ve put in isn’t taken for granted,” O’Neale said. “A lot of people are showing respect when it’s due. Earning that respect from him was one of the good moments. It made me feel like I’m becoming somebody in this league.”

The Jazz enter the offseason prepared to make some changes to a roster that hasn’t been able to get over the hump in the playoffs over the last two years. However, it’s unlikely that they’ll part ways with O’Neale, despite the fact that his 2019/20 salary is non-guaranteed — at a rate of $1,618,520, he’ll likely be one of the league’s better bargains next season.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

Northwest Notes: O’Neale, Thibodeau, Collison, Murray

After two years of trying to earn an NBA job, Royce O’Neale broke through in a big way with the Jazz last season, writes Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune. After unexpectedly making the roster in training camp, O’Neale played in 69 games and was part of the rotation right through the playoffs. As he prepares for his second NBA season, O’Neale hasn’t changed his mindset of fighting to prove he belongs on the team.

“I can’t rest,” O’Neale said. “I still have to come out here and play with a chip on my shoulder.”

O’Neale has dedicated the summer to working on ball-handling and 3-point shooting, as well as spending time in the weight room. He heads into this year’s camp with a contract in hand, even though both seasons are non-guaranteed. O’Neale will receive $1,378,242 this season and $1,618,520 in 2019/20 if he remains on the roster.

There’s more tonight from the Northwest Division:

  • Coming off a difficult season with the Timberwolves, coach/executive Tom Thibodeau feels refreshed after a summer away from the team, relays Jim Souhan of The Star-Tribune. Minnesota entered the season with high expectations after trading for Jimmy Butler and signing Jeff Teague and Taj Gibson, but the pieces didn’t always fit together well and the Wolves had to win on the final night of the regular season to reach the playoffs. “I know I have to recharge,” said Thibodeau, who spent much of the summer traveling. “Now that I’m back here, I walk around the lake quite a bit. It’s beautiful here in the summer.”
  • The Thunder should honor Nick Collison‘s years of service to the organization by retiring his number, contends an article in The Oklahoman (subscription only.) Collison was the 12th pick in the 2003 draft by the SuperSonics and remained with the team for a full decade after its move to Okahoma City. He announced his retirement in May.
  • Nuggets point guard Jamal Murray has proven he can excel on offense, but he still needs to improve at the other end of the court, contends Joel Rush of Forbes. Rush runs the numbers and shows that Murray’s ineffectiveness on defense negates much of what he contributes on offense.

Northwest Notes: Nuggets, Nurkic, O’Neale

While making a decision on Nikola Jokic‘s team option – and possible subsequent free agency – will be the Nuggets‘ top priority this offseason, the club will face several challenges in the coming weeks and months, writes Bobby Marks of ESPN.com (Insider link).

As Marks outlines, one of those challenges will be finding a way to bring back Will Barton next season, since it looks on paper like the Nuggets won’t be able to afford him. Still, with Wilson Chandler, Kenneth Faried, and Darrell Arthur all expected to be on expiring contracts in 2018/19, Denver shouldn’t worry too much about going over the tax line, according to Marks, who points out that the team should be able to cut costs when those veteran contracts expire in the summer of 2019. That would mean avoiding multiple years in tax territory.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Six prospects participated in the Nuggets‘ latest pre-draft group workout, according to Chris Dempsey of Nuggets.com, who provides the list (via Twitter): Tyler Cook (Iowa), Jon Elmore (Marshall), Ethan Happ (Wisconsin), Mustapha Heron (Auburn), Charles Matthews (Michigan), and Shamorie Ponds (St. John’s).
  • Frank Urbina of HoopsHype examines four potential landing spots for restricted free agent Jusuf Nurkic, identifying the Mavericks, Hawks, Wizards as possible suitors. However, Urbina writes that a return to the Trail Blazers is the most likely outcome for Nurkic.
  • Dakari Johnson didn’t play a whole lot in his rookie season, but he’s still just 22 years old and may still have a place in the Thunder‘s long-term plans, writes Brett Dawson of The Oklahoman.
  • After spending the 2017/18 season with the Jazz as an undrafted free agent, Royce O’Neale called his rookie year a “dream come true,” as Ryan McDonald of The Deseret News details. While O’Neale wasn’t a lock to stick with Utah for multiple years coming into the season, his $1.38MM non-guaranteed salary for 2018/19 looks like a bargain now, McDonald observes.