Utah Jazz: Ranking the 10 projected rotation pieces

Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Utah Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports) /
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Utah Jazz
Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports) /

6. Utah Jazz forward Royce O’Neale (projected starter)

If Eric Paschall and Rudy Gay exceed their somewhat measured expectations next season, then they could often threaten, in a friendly way, the playing time of Royce O’Neale. In fact, with all the new talent in town at or around his position, it seems doubtful that the fifth-year Utah Jazz blue-collar worker will match his 31.6 minutes per game from last season.

Yet let’s be fair to O’Neale for a second. While the 6-foot-4, 225-pound athletic small forward may not enjoy the same offensive pedigree as Gay or the same brute strength as Paschall, it’s important to note a few reasons he should earn more minutes per game than either of those Jazz newcomers:

  • He’s now at what could be his peak age of 28.
  • He has deep familiarity with the Jazz system after serving as a full-time starter the past two seasons.
  • He has a selfless approach that Utah has come to count on, time and again, to set the tone or spark a momentum shift over the years.

Across his four seasons as a pro since going undrafted out of Baylor in 2015 and then spending a couple of years overseas, O’Neale has steadily increased his production in almost every department. He’s a testament to the franchise’s success in developing hungry prospects.

Maybe this go-round, he will further exhibit his growth by reaching or exceeding his career-high 7.0 points and 6.8 rebounds per game from last season, even if he sees a minor minutes reduction.

Projected playing time for Royce O’Neale: 25 minutes per game