No. 1: Royce O’Neale, Brooklyn Nets
A former Utah Jazz teammate of Donovan Mitchell, Royce O’Neale is probably the most likely trade candidate for the Cavaliers this season. If he joins the squad, there is little fault to find in the addition. O’Neale is a hair shorter at 6-foot-6, but, his defensive ability and consistency over the years places him number one.
Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor already reported that the Cavs nearly got O’Neale at the trade deadline. It seemed that both teams were interested in the deal, though the public does not know what it was. In the end, the Nets chose to retain O’Neale for the season with their playoff hopes still alive.
This offseason might be the perfect time to reignite those discussions, as the teams are perfect trade partners on paper. Brooklyn needs youth and future assets. Cleveland needs proven talent that can put the ball in the hoop from behind the three-point line. Let’s hope the Nets pick up the phone again once trade season begins.
Shooting 38.9% from three on five-and-a-half attempts per game, O’Neale’s offensive skill set opens up variety in Cleveland’s offense that severely lacked in the playoffs. While O’Neale has a height disadvantage in certain matchups, he has had above league average defense nearly every season in his career. Additionally, O’Neale has little injury history. Since the 2019-2020 season, O’Neale has played in at least 71 games each year; sometimes availability is the best ability.
O’Neale will be 30 years old at the start of the 2023-2024 season and making under $10 million in that year. As a free agent the following offseason (are any of these trade options not expiring?), the Cavaliers would have Bird Rights in order to improve their chances at retaining O’Neale.
Additionally, his connection to Cavaliers star Donovan Mitchell as former teammates in Utah makes his cultural fit in the locker room a swift integration. Assuming Ricky Rubio is not included in the trade for O’Neale, then he would be entering a team with another former running partner.
Culturally and statistically, O’Neale just makes sense in the wine and gold. In a way, O’Neale can serve the role that a younger Danny Green could have offered. He has proven himself every year and would be a tremendous starter alongside the developing young core as an offensive threat and locker room leader.
In summary, Cleveland should be hoping the front office pulls off this trade, including fans and players. If O’Neale needs a ride to Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse from the airport, I am happy to be a free Uber driver. I won’t even be the annoying kind who talk a lot. He can control the music choice, too. Bring Royce O’Neale to the Land.