Jazz

The Underrated, Unsung Hero That Is Royce O’Neale

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It’s easy to forget the smaller pieces to the puzzle on a team like the Utah Jazz. Royce O’Neale found himself in that sort of a spot last season, after finding his way into the lineup thanks to circumstances beyond his control that turned out to be a blessing. Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune noted in a story last November that having minutes of great significance was “the last thing he expected” — and now that is a reality.

O’Neale only averaged five points and three boards for the season, with one assist per game as well. And while those numbers don’t jump off the page for obvious reasons, healthy support from the second team and beyond is going to be crucial for the Jazz to make any sort of deep playoff run.

Perhaps the most notable moment of the season for O’Neale was in Game 4 of the second round series against the Houston Rockets when he drove to the basket and dunked all over Clint Capela.

One of the other things you have to take into consideration when understanding O’Neale’s role in Salt Lake City and how important he really is moving forward is how this team will respond if they’re involved in a blockbuster trade. Karl-Anthony Towns is a top-tier center that could be on the trade table soon, and the Jazz would be smart to have their eyes on him. Joe Ingles and Alec Burks could be shipped out if the Jazz decide to go after someone like Otto Porter Jr. from Washington.

Since remaining both stable and united has become a sort of staple for the new era of Jazz basketball we are watching, O’Neale remaining consistent despite the circumstances could make or break how far this team goes if he can perform when they need him most.

Looking at his splits, O’Neale performed best when on the road, which is a critical point of his game that Utah is going to need even more emphatically next season in order to improve away from home and hold their own in the standings. The Western Conference is going to be a very dangerous place come October, and the Jazz are going to need all of the help they can get from guys that don’t have the spotlight on them just yet.

But as we learned a season ago, 82 games and an opportunity at the right time can change everything.

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About Keith Rivas

Keith is based In Salt Lake City and covers the Jazz for TLSM. Follow him on Twitter @mrkeithrivas for all things Utah Jazz.

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