O’Neale has been averaging career highs across the board for the Jazz this season
The Utah Jazz are winners of nine of their last 10 games, and have finally hit a groove midway through the season. Donovan Mitchell is putting up All-Star numbers, Bojan Bogdanovic has adjusted well to his new team and Rudy Gobert has been as dominant as ever in the paint and on defense. Everything has been clicking for the Jazz lately, who are sitting in fourth in the Western Conference, and one of the pieces who has consistently contributed to Utah’s success this season just got rewarded.
Third-year forward Royce O’Neale agreed to a four-year contract extension, the team announced Sunday. The deal is worth $36 million, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The deal could end up being a bargain for the Jazz.
O’Neale doesn’t put up transcendent numbers — he’s averaging 6.2 points and 5.0 rebounds — but he’s been someone the Jazz can routinely count on to knock down a three, as he’s hitting them at a 44.3 percent clip.
He’s been a solid floor spacer for Mitchell and Mike Conley, and is the best perimeter defender the Jazz have, embodying exactly what a 3-and-D player is. O’Neale was set to become a restricted free agent this summer, where the Jazz could’ve matched any contract an opposing team offered him. He might not garner all the attention as Mitchell or Gobert, but on both ends of the floor he’s one of Utah’s most impactful players.
On offense, the Jazz’s offensive rating jumps from 105.6 to 115.9 with him on the floor, and the two-man combination of him and Mitchell generates plus-13.3 points for Utah. A bulk of his shots are spot-up jumpers, where he generates 1.15 points per possession, and he’s been a threat for the Jazz in transition.
Defensively, O’Neale is routinely tasked with guarding the best wing player on the opposing team, and without him on the floor Utah’s defense suffers. The Jazz will rely on him heavily when the playoffs start to guard the likes of Kawhi Leonard, and while he stands at only 6-foot-4, O’Neale has been getting most of his minutes as a power forward this season and has the second-best defensive rating (104.2) of Utah’s starting five behind Gobert.
O’Neale isn’t the most eye-popping player to watch, but the Jazz ensured that his defensive prowess and 3-point shooting stays in Utah for a long time, and two years from now this deal might look like an absolute steal.
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