Nets Declined Cavaliers’ Offer for Aging Veteran at Trade Deadline

Brooklyn Nets

Getty Donovan Mitchell #45 of the Cleveland Cavaliers.

It is becoming clearer by the day just how committed the Brooklyn Nets were to remaining competitive even after trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving at this past season’s deadline.

On top of rejecting a considerable offer of four first-round picks from the Memphis Grizzlies for budding star Mikal Bridges, the Nets also turned away potential buyers for some of their more seasoned players, some of which were brought on to appease Durant after Irving demanded to be traded.

“Cleveland…came close in February and were far down the road on a deal for Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale before it opted not to trade him,” reported Cavaliers beat writer Chris Fedor of on May 16 in his weekly mailbag.

O’Neale, 29, averaged 8.8 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and in 38.9% from deep this year.

The Nets acquired him last offseason amid Durant and Irving’s previous respective trade demands.

They sent a 2023 first-round pick to the Utah Jazz in what some thought was a precursor to a larger deal for then-disgruntled Jazz star Donovan Mitchell who now suits up for the Cavs and is one of O’Neale’s best friends.

That pick was originally from the Philadelphia 76ers and was part of the trade swapping James Harden and Ben Simmons. It is slated to be the least favorable of selections between the Nets’, Sixers’, and Houston Rockets’ first-round picks meaning it will be the No. 28 overall pick in the 2023 NBA Draft.

O’Neale is heading into the final year of his four-year, $36 million contract that is only partially guaranteed for $2.5 million of the $9.5 million he is owed.

Brooklyn also rejected multiple offers of first-round picks for forward Dorian Finney-Smith.

Cameron Johnson a ‘Pipe Dream’ for Cavs

Fedor also listed a slew of other potential options to fill a glaring hole in Cleveland’s starting lineup. Among them was restricted free agent Cameron Johnson, though it seems he does not believe a match is in the cards.

“Cameron Johnson [is] a pipedream target and restricted free agent that would probably require a large payday and the Cavs shaking up the roster,” writes Fedor.

Johnson rejected an offer that ranged anywhere from $66 million to $72 million from the Phoenix Suns, per Michael Scotto of HoopsHype and there has been speculation that the 27-year-old could approach or even exceed $20 million annually on his next contract. Phoenix was not willing to approach that number, per Scotto, but the Nets are in a different situation.

Nets general manager Sean Marks made his intentions to keep him clear.

This is setting up what is set up to be a pivotal offseason for Brooklyn.

The Mikal Bridges Factor

Current apparent Nets building block Mikal Bridges could have significant sway in the decision-making both in terms of what he may prefer and in how the Nets can properly build around him.

He has previously noted his appreciation for players like Finney-Smith.

Bridges also shouldered the blame for a miscue in Game 3 versus the 76ers that essentially cost them a win, noting O’Neale did the “right thing”.

And he naturally spoke on wanting to keep his “twin” in Johnson in the fold.

“I do definitely want him back,” Bridges told Spencer Davies of Hoops Herald in an article from May 17. “It’s just hopefully the money’s right, and I know he wants to stay here…But I definitely want him here, man. Hopefully, they get the deal done.”

Bridges added that he is anxious for Johnson to make his decision. The Nets will have the right of first refusal on any offer sheet Johnson may sign, though they will have 48 hours to do so.