The nearer we get to the trade deadline, the more the pot on the stove begins to heat up. Teams who need assistance will soon become frantic as they desperately attempt to fill a need. Seller teams are anticipating that the panic will offer an opportunity for them to sell high on a departing asset, resulting in a return that exceeds their outgoing worth.
For the Phoenix Suns, there will be panic. The team simply doesn’t have enough viable assets to oversell. This isn’t last season when the team had a stable of desirable wing players on their roster. No, this is a team that doesn’t have much to go to market with, and what they are willing to part with isn’t what you would call “desirable”.
Still, James Jones would not be doing his due diligence in attempting to make moves that could help the team achieve their ultimate goal of winning a championship. Phoenix has holes, and Jones will try to fill them with his little assets.
The contract that needs to go? Nassir Little’s.
It may not be desirable, but it is rumored that is what Jones is shopping for. What is he attempting to get in return? Athletic win depth. You may agree or disagree that this is the need of the team, but based on the players the Suns are connected to at the moment, it appears that this is still the case.
Yahoo! Sports’ Jake Fischer recently reported that the Suns are looking at “rotation-level players” like Brooklyn’s Royce O’Neale and Houston’s Jae’Sean Tate to fill the gaps.
Phoenix only has second-round capital at its disposal, plus Nassir Little and his four-year, $28 million contract, to consider for legitimate upgrades, as Phoenix appears intent on keeping Grayson Allen. While the Suns were once considered primarily shopping for guards – and they remain connected to players in that salary range such as Delon Wright and Monte Morris, sources said – the Suns now seem to be generally looking at various rotation-level players, ranging from Jae’Sean Tate to Royce O’Neale, sources said, to Bridges and Charlotte teammate Nick Richards.
I circle back to that same narrative that I’ve had this entire season as it pertains to the Suns and the trade deadline. I don’t see how either Brooklyn or Houston, both teams that want to stack viable assets and reload for the future, find anything the Suns have as desirable. Anything.
But James Jones is doing his due diligence, so therefore I will as well. Let’s take a quick look at both Tate and O’Neale, knowing that both are an upgrade over Nassir Little.
6’4”, 230 lb.
2023-24: 40 GP, 18.6 MP, 4.7 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 1.1 APG, 47.7 FG%, 29.5 3PT%
Tate, who was undrafted out of Ohio State, fought his way to the NBA by playing first in Belgium, where he would be an All-Star for the Antwerp Giants, and then Australia’s NBL. At 25 years old he made the All-NBL First Team playing for the Sydney Kings.
This prompted a signing with the Houston Rockets, and in his rookie season, he made the 2021 All-Rookie First Team.
Defined as a “Swiss-army knife wing”, Tate is known for his hustle and defensive iratability. He may be 6’4”, but he is one of those players who play bigger than his size indicates. You know, like Josh Okogie. And like Josh Okigie, he is allergic to making three-pointers.
He’s an energetic and tough defender with good anticipation, he has a high basketball IQ on offense and understands positioning and off-the-ball movement, in addition to having a top-notch post game for a 6’4” swingman, and he also brings useful leadership qualities that are beneficial to a young and growing team.
Could he find himself productive minutes with Phoenix? Certainly. The minutes are out there as no one on the bench unit is stepping up and owning them.
6’6”, 226 lb.
2023-24: 43 GP, 24.5 MP, 7.0 PPG, 4.6 RPG, 3.0 APG, 37.6 FG%, 3PT%
Another undrafted guy who has fought his way to relevance, the 30-year-old O’Neale played 5 years with the Utah Jazz before being traded to the Brooklyn Nets for a 2023 first-round pick. Royce had a stellar 2021 playoff run with the Jazz, starting 11 games for Utah, and averaging 11.3 points and 46.7% shooting.
He has the reputation of being a solid rotation player with a three-point shot that has served him well, shooting 38% from deep throughout his career. Inside the Nets Peter Sunjic gave this review on O’Neale’s contributions earlier this season:
He’s a reliable defender, adept at handling power forwards with physicality yet possessing the size and speed to keep up with smaller wings and guards, embodying the ideal glue guy—although his contributions occasionally fly under the radar.
At 6’6”, O’Neale is a perfect plug-and-play player for the Nets since he can slot in either a small forward or power forward role. Nothing truly pops out there but his role as a connecting piece has been amazing. He can make the extra pass at times, but when he’s open, he’s quite reliable with his jump shots.
Royce would be a solid addition to the Suns and could serve as a more defensive-minded Terrence Ross from a season ago.
Royce O’Neale would be a seamless fit in Phoenix.— Zona (@AZSportsZone) January 26, 2024
Tough defender, physical player, and willing shooter.
Not a much of an offensive threat, but he doesn’t need to be with the firepower Phoenix has.
I like the undrafted guys. I like the players who have had to fight for every minute in the NBA. That is what always makes the Miami Heat such a tough out in the postseason, right? They are a team stocked full of hard-nosed “I had to earn it” guys. That is what makes both players above appealing.
Let’s pretend the Suns could provide Brooklyn or Houston an acceptable offer, shall we? Let’s move the 2K trading sliders and salaries in our favor. Which of the two would you prefer?
Which player would you prefer the Suns to acquire?
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