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Royce O’Neale excited to join Suns in push for title run

The Phoenix Suns bolstered their roster yesterday by acquiring Royce O’Neale, who has significant playoff experience and could bring exactly what they need off the bench.

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The 6-foot-6 O’Neale was in his second season with the Brooklyn Nets before the trade, averaging 7.4 points and 4.5 rebounds in 24.5 minutes per game across 49 contests.

Phoenix sent away four players to Brooklyn and the Memphis Grizzlies and traded away three second-round picks and a pick swap for O’Neale and David Roddy.

“I was actually at home playing Call of Duty (when I got the news),” O’Neale said. “I was excited. Hearing about it as the days lead up, the time leads up, and then when it happens it’s a surreal feeling. Just the opportunity, the excitement, playing with guys I used to play with and new guys, I’m excited to be here.”

The 30-year-old O’Neale is now in his seventh season in the NBA after spending his first two years overseas, then five with the Utah Jazz and the last 1.5 with the Nets.

During his time in the NBA, O’Neale has played in 44 playoff games, averaging 8.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.0 assists. His most memorable run came when Utah was the No. 1 seed in the 2021 playoffs and made it to the Western Conference semifinals. O’Neale averaged 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds while shooting 50.6% from the floor and 46.7% from deep as a starter during these 11 playoff games.

Both general manager James Jones and coach Frank Vogel spoke highly about how O’Neale’s playoff history will impact his role on this team.

“(His fit) will be seamless. You just have to look at his track record,” Jones said. “He’s played with some really good players on some really good teams, and he’s been instrumental in their success. He’s fearless. That’s what this is about. We’re going into a Western Conference playoff race that’s daunting, but it’s fun. If you’re a competitor, you look forward to it, and luckily for us, we’ve been able to add a guy in Royce that looks forward to that challenge.”

What O’Neale brings to the table

So, what exactly will O’Neale bring to the Suns on the court?

“The little things,” O’Neale said. “All the intangibles. Be the dirty work player, knock down open shots, try to make my teammates better any way I can. Learn from them every way, take us as far as we can.”

The two known things about O’Neale are that he can defend at a high level and shoot 3s. Both of these aspects will be invaluable to the Suns, and as Vogel mentioned will help take some of the load off Durant defensively.

However, O’Neale is also an excellent passer with a career 2.4 to 1.0 assist-turnover ratio. O’Neale loved seeing the Suns rack up a season-high 37 assists in their win over the Jazz yesterday.

“I’d rather get an assist than a bucket to be honest,” O’Neale said. “We got a lot of guys on this team that can score. I can score myself, but just being a good playmaker whenever I’m needed, getting these guys involved and winning as many games as we can.”

“I said, ‘I’m going to fit right in (after watching the game yesterday).'”

Another little aspect of O’Neale’s game that he will contribute is the art of the pump fake, which he called his “little special talent.”

O’Neale has experience playing with two Suns’ starters. He played half a season with Kevin Durant in Brooklyn and with Grayson Allen during Allen’s rookie year in Utah (2018-19).

O’Neale said that growing up in Texas he followed Durant’s whole career in high school and college, so he was fortunate to share the court with him.

He added about Durant: “He told me we was gonna be teammates after he left, so here we are.”

Durant complimented O’Neale’s ability to do it all after the win over the Jazz, but also who he is as a person.

“I’m excited about him,” Durant said. “I love being around Royce and can’t wait to keep building with him as a person first and then as a teammate … He just plays extremely hard, loves the game, loves his teammates, and I think people in the Valley are going to love watching him.”

Following up on Durant’s point about who O’Neale is off the court, O’Neale shared what he wanted Suns’ fans to know about him: “Royce O’Neale: He’s going to bring it every day with his own swag. The coolest guy y’all might meet.”

O’Neale is expected to make his Suns’ debut tomorrow in Golden State against the Warriors.

Grading the Phoenix Suns trade for Royce O’Neale and David Roddy

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Brendan Mau is a senior writer covering the Phoenix Suns and more for Burn City Sports. You can follow him on X via @Brendan_Mau

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