Many questioned the timing of Royce O'Neale's trade to the Brooklyn Nets last summer. News of the deal broke just minutes after Kevin Durant's bombshell trade request. Through a season that saw Kyrie Irving suspended and later traded alongside Durant, Ben Simmons sidelined, and a slew of new faces enter the fold, O'Neale was one of Brooklyn's most dependable players.

The veteran wing turned in the best season of his career after the Nets parted with a first-round pick for his services, appearing in 76 games and leading the team in minutes. O'Neale averaged 8.8 points and 3.7 assists while shooting 38.9 percent from three on 5.5 attempts per game, all career highs. He flashed improved ball-handling ability from his Utah days with Durant and Irving sidelined for extended periods, recording 23 games with five or more assists.

Most importantly, he was one of Brooklyn’s top clutch performers, shooting 10-of-20 from the field and 8-of-16 from three in crunch time (final five minutes of games within five points). That sample size includes three game-winners with the Nets trailing in the final 30 seconds.

Head coach Jacque Vaughn spoke about his trust in O'Neale as a closer towards the end of the season:

“He’s a guy that is comfortable at the end of the games,” Vaughn said. “You watched him in the Utah days, he was a guy that inbounded at the end of the game or was in at the end of the game. So he does that for us. The majority of the time if there’s an inbound play at the end of the game, Royce will be delivering.

“There’s an extreme amount of trust and comfort that I have in him as a coach that I think the players have grown. The confidence that he exudes that he’s going to make the right decision, call a timeout, he’s gonna shoot the basketball when it becomes available. So give him a lot of credit for garnering the confidence of his teammates and the coaching staff.”

Defensively, O'Neale struggled at the point of attack against quicker guards in Brooklyn's switch-heavy scheme. However, he was highly effective while guarding bigger wings and centers in the post, a skill the Nets were missing for most of the 2021-22 season.

While he was a consistent source of regular-season production, O'Neale's disappearing act in Brooklyn's first-round sweep against Philadelphia put a damper on his 2022-23 campaign. The Baylor product averaged just 5.0 points per game on 4-of-22 (18.2 percent) shooting from three. To his credit, O'Neale did an admirable job battling with Joel Embiid down low despite giving up over 50 pounds. However, his ice-cold shooting was a significant blow to a Nets offense in desperate need of production.

After the acquisitions of Mikal Bridges, Dorian Finney-Smith and Cam Johnson, the Nets have a logjam on the wing that is expected to bring about changes this summer. Brooklyn nearly dealt O'Neale to Cleveland for a first-round pick at the deadline, according to's Chris Fedor. They were also offered two first-round picks for Finney-Smith.

It would be surprising if general manager Sean Marks didn't revisit that interest. Finney-Smith is on a team-friendly deal at $28 million over the next two seasons before a $15 player option in 2025-26. O'Neale is on a $9.5 million expiring contract next season.

Overall, O'Neale turned in an efficient season as one of Brooklyn's top role players. That should allow the Nets to recoup similar value to what they traded last summer should they look to flip him this offseason.

Royce O'Neale's 2022-23 Grade: B-