Donovan Mitchell's former teammate the Cavaliers should steal this summer

The Cavaliers will be on the hunt for versatile wings in the free agent market. A former teammate of Donovan Mitchell may be the perfect fit.
Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks
Utah Jazz v Atlanta Hawks / Todd Kirkland/GettyImages

A key contributor the Cleveland Cavaliers are still missing is another versatile, consistent wing who can produce on both sides of the ball.

The Cavs seemed to struggle with matchups against taller wings who could score from the inside and out. Cleveland's roster is filled with either undersized guards who lack the strength or big men who don't have the quickness to keep up with athletic wings. They also will need to find forwards that can shoot from the outside reliably to complement their frontcourt. With Evan Mobley and Jarrett Allen both still on the roster, they can't afford another non-shooter when they are both on the floor.

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cavs will be aggressive in the trade market. While there is logic to trading Darius Garland and/or Jarrett Allen to find players that fit the Cavaliers scheme and needs more, team President Koby Altman stated in his press conference that he would like to keep the Core Four together. Either way - the Cavaliers will definitely at least be monitoring the free agent market to see if they can afford to bring in any players that could upgrade and help out the team.

The Cavaliers should chase former Jazz wing in free agency

Depending on what the Cavaliers do with upcoming free agent, Isaac Okoro will determine how much money they can spend in free agency. Cleveland will likely have at least $10 million dollars of the non-taxpayer Mid-Level Exception to spend on a free agent they choose to pursue. Cleveland could access the full MLE if they maneuver their cap space to drop a few million dollars. Even if they choose to retain Isaac Okoro, he is only 6-foot 4-inches, and the Cavaliers would still be on the hunt for more size in the forward position.

With the Cavaliers looking for size, shooting, and strong defensive versatility, a former teammate of Donovan Mitchell would make the perfect fit. Cleveland has shown significant interest in O'Neale in trade talks over the past few seasons, but nothing came to fruition during O'Neales tenure with the Brooklyn Nets. With O'Neale in position to choose his next destination, the Cavs could be the right suitor to pair him with his former teammate and close friend.

Royce O'Neale and Donovan Mitchell both started their NBA careers in the 2017-2018 season for the Utah Jazz. They played five seasons together before they both left Utah in the summer of 2022. O'Neale is a 6'6 wing known for his tough defense and is a career 38 percent three-point shooting. While he doesn't have quite as much height as the Cavs may be looking for, he makes up for it with his strong stature (226 pounds) and 6-foot-9 wingspan.

Last season O'Neale averaged 7.7 points and 4.8 rebounds per game while hitting two three pointers a game at a 37 percent clip. He was traded from Brooklyn to Phoenix midseason in a three-team trade, but he is now an unrestricted free agent. Given O'Neale's two-way production and veteran status, he could potentially fit the Cavaliers' budget. It makes sense for the Cavs to try signing the veteran forward, but would O'Neale want to come to Cleveland?

The hurdles in signing O'Neale

According to Senior NBA Insider, Michael Scotto, Royce O'Neale is expected to re-sign with the Phoenix Suns for roughly 10 million dollars a year. Brian Windhorst also confirmed this belief on the Hoop Collective Podcast. Should the Cavs drop their cap sheet, they could counter Phoenix's offer and give O'Neale a better offer sheet.

This news doesn't look good for his availability, but nothing is official. These are just rumors from insiders, and sometimes the information is incorrect. The right situation or one conversation can shift a free agent's perspective. The Cavaliers could offer O'Neale a meaningful role for a team with potential to win the Eastern Conference.

If the Cavaliers chose to still pursue O'Neale despite these reports, would he have any interest? There is definitely a distinct possibility of that. The Suns were swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Minnesota Timberwolves. They have a new owner, Matt Ishbia, who sold away all future assets to build an aging and injury-prone big three consisting of Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal. This put them in a win-now situation, and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) restrictions will heavily limit Phoenix's offseason options going forward.

It is reasonable to think that there could be a lot of disgruntled players and employees within the Phoenix organization as Ishbia's aggressive and reckless moves have hamstrung the team to their superstars who haven't seemed to generate real chemistry or success yet.

Should the Cleveland Cavaliers offer O'Neale the MLE on a multi-year contract, Cleveland's pursuit of the veteran wing could finally end after years of interest and missed opportunities.

Next. 4 draft prospects the Cavaliers could target in the first round. 4 draft prospects the Cavaliers could target in the first round. dark