Grading the trade for Royce O’Neale: Brooklyn’s POV
Following Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving's departures, the Nets seem focused on building a sustainable contender through draft picks, young player development, and complementary veterans.
That's not to say they're a bad team. After all, head coach Jacque Vaughn has instilled a defensive identity, with the Nets ranking in the upper portion of the league in defensive rating through December. This is due in part to their litany of exciting young players like Dariq Whitehead, Cam Thomas, and Day'Ron Sharpe, who show potential as core pieces for the future.
Seeing as they’ve only won two of their last 10 and are currently just the ninth seed in the stacked Eastern Conference, it may be in their best interest to view this year as a developmental opportunity to build for a post-Kevin Durant future. Still, they may not be interested in going on a full-on rebuild, considering the fairly balanced roster they have, and they might feel the need to replace the production that Royce O'Neale can bring.
They're different players at different points in their careers, to be sure, but both Connaughton and O'Neale are recognized for their defensive skills, floor spacing, and overall energy on the floor. If Connaughton can bring a similar level of defensive intensity and versatility to the Nets while improving on his 3-point shooting efficiency, he could, in theory, contribute like O'Neale.
Earlier on in the season, Brooklyn was said to be “extremely active” in fielding offers for Dorian Finney-Smith and Royce O'Neale, hoping to move up the draft board. Yahoo Sports' Jake Fischer reported then that their asking price for O'Neale was a first-round pick.
Second-round picks, which are the Bucks' only tradeable resource at the moment, are often viewed as assets, but their value can vary. The quality of the picks depends on the strength of the draft class and the team's ability to identify talent in the second round.
The success of the trade depends on each team's specific needs. If the Bucks need more defensive versatility and are willing to part with, say, Bobby Portis or Pat Connaughton and future picks, this trade makes sense for them. On the other hand, if the Nets are looking to replace O'Neale's production while getting picks back in return, Pat Connaughton and the picks could be beneficial.
The Brooklyn Nets' rebuild is in its early stages, making it difficult to definitively assess. While they have promising young talent and a renewed defensive focus, they currently lack a true star outside of Mikal Bridges and the necessary depth to support his talents en route to title contention. Their success will depend on the development of their young players and other strategic acquisitions.