The 2023-24 Brooklyn Nets are taking shape and their latest non-decision ensured one of the league’s best sharpshooters remains in-house, at least for the time being.
Brooklyn let the July 9 deadline on Royce O’Neale’s $9.5 million salary come and go, making it fully guaranteed for next season. O’Neale, 30, averaged career-high marks with 8.8 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 38.9% (for the second year in a row) from three-point distance this past season with 5.1 rebounds and nearly 1.0 steals.
“Stay the course. Keep going! Grateful,” O’Neale tweeted in reaction to the deadline passing.
The 6-foot-6 forward was acquired last offseason in a move some speculated was a potential precursor to a trade for Donovan Mitchell who the Utah Jazz ultimately traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers instead.
Interestingly enough, the Cavs are said to have unsuccessfully tried to trade for O’Neale to reunite him with his friend, Mitchell.
Brooklyn rejected those previous overtures but this decision does not close the door on it.
If anything, this decision opens up more possibilities since his previous prorated guaranteed salary of just $2.5 million was far less useful in a potential trade than the full amount, especially for a player of O’Neale’s skill level, consistency, and ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor.
This gives Brooklyn 13 guaranteed contracts including first-round picks Noah Clowney and Dariq Whitehead, and they will be up to 14 guaranteed salaries once Edmond Sumner’s $2.2 million salary locks in for the 2023-24 campaign on July 15.
O’Neale’s salary locks in one month and 10 days after he was initially introduced by the Nets’ social media team.
He is in the final year of a four-year, $36 million contract.
Nets Not Giving Royce O’Neale Away
This could be a move aimed at keeping a valuable player in the fold for a team that will not be looking to tank next season. That much was evident in their decision to decline the Cavs’ offer and how others around the league have viewed their stance in subsequent trade talks about the former undrafted free agent.
Similar sentiments have been expressed about teammate Dorian Finney-Smith.
“The Nets have been unwilling to move O’Neale without the equivalent of a first-round pick in return or Finney-Smith without the equivalent of two first-round picks,” wrote Michael Scotto of HoopsHype on July 2.
O’Neale in particular showed a little bit more than previously expected which may have increased his value in the Nets’ eyes or the eyes of other front offices.
Again, none of that means neither will be traded.
“The Nets have cornered the market on 3-and-D wings,” an NBA executive told Scotto in April. “There’s a belief the Nets could break up their surplus of wing depth and trade either Finney-Smith or O’Neale. Various teams around the league, including the Cleveland Cavaliers, are expected to pursue potential 3-and-D wings this summer.”
Nets Made Dennis Smith Jr. a ‘Priority’
While decisions on the likes of O’Neale or the newly-minted Cameron Johnson may have already been made before the season even ended, the Nets did not waste time moving on free agent acquisition Dennis Smith Jr.
“It was communicated to me that I was a priority, and the direction they were trying to go in was also on the same trajectory that I am in my career,” Smith told Erik Slater of ClutchPoints on July 9. “I just thought it was hand and glove fit – I could come in and help those guys. Being able to play with this staff, and the players they put out there, I could maximize my game.”
If Smith’s defense translates to next season, he will have a role in Vaughn’s rotations that were geared more toward that end after the trade deadline last season.