The ideal trade target for the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2022 offseason

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 14: (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images)
SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH - MARCH 14: (Photo by Alex Goodlett/Getty Images) /

I have a very love/hate relationship with the NBA offseason. On the one hand, I do enjoy the drama and intrigue about where players are going to land and how teams build their rosters. On the other hand, sometimes there’s too much drama and silly rumors that make it hard to enjoy. Now that the Milwaukee Bucks were eliminated earlier than we hoped, there’s more time for those rumors.

The Bucks need to tweak their roster in the right places this offseason and optimize it around their big three. It starts with adding more depth on the wing and getting guys who can shoot and defend on the perimeter at a high level. For me, there’s one (realistic) guy that the Bucks should be looking at first in that category of player.

Royce O’Neale is the ideal trade target for the Milwaukee Bucks this offseason

There was a lot of expectation and heat on the Utah Jazz coming into this season and the rumors were that if they didn’t make a decent playoff run that there would be changes coming in the offseason.

Well, they flamed out in the first round after a subpar regular season and it appears that change is coming in Salt Lake City. If I’m general manager Jon Horst, I’m calling up Justin Zanik and Danny Ainge and immediately inquiring about Royce O’Neale.

O’Neale certainly isn’t the sexiest name on the market this summer but he will have suitors and plenty of them. At 28-years-old, 6’5″, and 226 pounds, O’Neale is an immediate fit simply off that biographical information alone. He’s in his prime-age years and has the size to defend wings.

O’Neale has been a great diamond in the rough find for the Jazz since being signed in 2017 after going undrafted. He’s played 370 games for Utah and became one of their key pieces over time.

In those 370 games, O’Neale has averaged 6.2 points and shot 38.1 percent from 3 on three attempts per game along with 4.8 rebounds, 2.1 assists, and 0.8 steals.

In his last three seasons, O’Neale has started all but nine of the 219 games he’s played and shot 38.4 percent from 3 on nearly four attempts a night, 5.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 0.9 steals. Nearly 69 percent of his shot attempts in that span have been 3s. Those are some nice numbers for a good role player.

Diving a little deeper into O’Neale’s shooting, he got most of his 3s on catch-and-shoot opportunities (3.6 per game) and connected on 38 percent of them. Over 88 percent of his 3s came on wide-open looks (closest defender over six feet away) and he shot over 40 percent on those looks.

Donovan Mitchell and Mike Conley assisted on 99 of his 203 made shots this season. I bring that up because he needs guys to create open looks for him and there are certainly few players better at creating open 3s for their teammates than Giannis Antetokounmpo, but also having Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton to kick out to O’Neale for wide-open 3s will help as well.

He’s also not just a P.J. Tucker-type of 3-point shooter where he’s camped out in the corners. O’Neale got most of his 3s above the break (204 of his 306 attempts) and shot over 39 percent. He also shot nearly 39 percent in the corners so he’s pretty consistent in all spots behind the line.

He also can attack a scrambled defense and finish at the rim (over 67 percent in the restricted area this season) or make the extra pass to an open teammate (career 10.8 percent assist rate). He wouldn’t be asked to do much more than what he did offensively with Utah but that’s exactly what would be needed with Milwaukee.

Defensively is where O’Neale has earned his playing time and become one of the better wing defenders in the league. The problem has been that he’s been asked to do too much on that end because the Jazz didn’t have the defenders around him (outside of Rudy Gobert) to help him out.

Milwaukee, obviously, has better personnel, and adding O’Neale would only strengthen their defense while asking him to do less than he did with Utah.

He essentially guarded every team’s best wing or perimeter player this season from Brandon Ingram (held to 9-of-25 shooting against O’Neale) to Stephen Curry (7-of-17 shooting) to LaMelo Ball (4-of-15 shooting) to Giannis Antetokounmpo (4-of-12 shooting).

Now imagine O’Neale having to guard the likes of Curry, Ball, Devin Booker, and Bradley Beal less but also having someone to take a few possessions against those guys so Jrue Holiday and Khris Middleton don’t have to do it all the time.

This is the perfect fit to help the lack of wing depth! Make it happen, Horst!

The one problem is that he’s going to make $9.2 million against the cap next season. The easy answer would be to trade Grayson Allen ($9.3 million cap hit) but Allen is a couple of years younger and was just signed to the extension a year ago. Would the Jazz be willing to take on a younger but worse defender (probably a better overall shooter and offensive player) for O’Neale? The Bucks don’t have many other assets to sweeten the pot outside of a young player like Jordan Nwora or Sandro Mamukelashvili.

This is going to be the story of the Bucks’ offseason. They need to tweak and upgrade the roster but may not have the resources to do so. If they can make it work, though, O’Neale is the ideal fit for what the Bucks need to do this offseason.

Next. Grades from Milwaukee Bucks’ season-ending loss to Boston Celtics. dark

Imagine a defense for the Milwaukee Bucks consisting of Holiday, Matthews, O’Neale, Middleton, and Antetokounmpo? Fun stuff!