Jazz’s O’Neale vows to build on solid rookie season

Royce O'Neale is out to build on the solid rookie season he had for the Jazz a year ago.

Royce O’Neale had a breakout season in 2018-19, but vows he’s anything but finished in terms of working on his game.

After signing a three-year contract with the Utah Jazz last summer, the undrafted rookie out of Baylor steadily progressed during the regular season, though his numbers were modest, and in the playoffs, became a valued member of coach Quin Snyder’s rotation.

The 6-foot-6, 215-pound small forward flashed as a valuable 3-and-D guy, averaging 7.1 points per game in the postseason, even starting five games against the Houston Rockets after point guard Ricky Rubio was lost because of an injury to his left hamstring.

The Jazz guaranteed the second year of O’Neale’s contract earlier this summer. Still, though, O’Neal, vows he can’t and won’t stop working on his game as the Jazz prepare to get together for organized team activities ahead of training camp, which will tip off in September.

“I can’t rest,” O’Neale told Tony Jones of the Salt Lake Tribune. “I still have to come out here and play with a chip on my shoulder.”

During the regular season, O’Neale averaged 5.0 points, 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists in 16.7 minutes in 69 games (4 starts), shooting 42.3 percent from the field, 35.6 percent from the 3-point arc and 80.3 percent from the free-throw line.

As evidence of the progress O’Neale made throughout the course of the season, his numbers rose to 7.1 points, 3.5 boards and 1.4 dimes in 23.5 minutes in 11 games, posting a shooting line of 50.0/35.7/63.2.

Heading into his second NBA season, O’Neale has worked with Jazz assistant coach Lamar Skeeter on his handle, with the goal of improving his ability to attack off the dribble, while also working on his shooting.

Toward that end, O’Neale has also spent time in in Houston this summer, working out with reigning NBA Most Valuable Player James Harden and Chris Paul, while also finding the time to be put through some workouts by Jazz strength coach Jasper Bibbs in Miami.

Utah general manager Dennis Lindsey has high hopes for the 25-year-old O’Neale.

“Royce has added defensive toughness, intelligence, humility and a great work ethic to our club,” he told Jones. “In the community, he is also very giving of his time. 

“He truly has the Jazz DNA we are looking for in our people.”