Steve Nash says there is no competition for a starting spot between Joe Harris and Royce O’Neale. Nope.
“I think they are both going to play a lot,” the head coach said the other day. “I don’t know if one is taking minutes from the other. I think I feel they are both going to play a lot of minutes and play a big role.”
But it’s hard not to think of the two 6’6” wings as a natural competition. Both are 3-point plus shooters. O’Neale’s defense is better but Harris’ shooting is better. One is 29, the other 31.
As Brian Lewis writes Tuesday, the other four starters are set: Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Ben Simmons and Nic Claxton.
Neither, though, is coming off the best of times. Harris of course underwent two ankle surgeries and was out after November 14 ... and experiencing foot soreness that could keep him on the bench as the Nets head out the Midwest. O’Neale was part of a disappointing Jazz season and had a big drop-off at the end of regular season, then Utah’s loss to Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
As Lewis writes:
Through March 9 last season, O’Neale had shot 50.4 percent overall and a Jazz-leading 42.2 percent from deep. But in his last 22 games — six in the playoffs — his percentages fell to 32.9 and 28.7, respectively. He hit just 20 percent from behind the arc in the postseason.
It’s unclear if health played a role, but O’Neale did miss a game against the Thunder with a thumb injury. He’s shot 45.5 percent from the field and 40 percent from 3 this preseason, and he says the offense will improve with familiarity.
Beyond shooting, though, there’s O’Neale’s defense and basketball IQ recently.
“He brings his intangibles to our team really well. We can utilize him on that wing to be a defensive stopper — which we know he is — but also add some dimension on offense being a space-out shooter. He moves well, plays the game well, being in that Utah system for a long period of time,” said Nash. “Moving the ball is something drilled in their head. He fits well.”
But like almost everyone in the Nets rotation, he’ll be called upon to shoot from deep. Sean Marks loaded up on 3-point shooters knowing how one of Simmons greatest strengths is finding open players beyond the arc. Now, they all have to be healthy.
- Royce O’Neale could lay claim to Nets’ final starting spot - Brian Lewis - New York Post