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TRADE: Nets acquire F Royce O’Neale for first-round pick

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NBA: Phoenix Suns at Utah Jazz Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports

He’s here. The Kevin Durant replacement. Okay, not really.

On the day that the Brooklyn Nets’ franchise player officially put in his trade request to Joe Tsai and Sean Marks, the Nets made another move on the fringes, sending the lesser of their own two 2023 first-round picks from Philadelphia or Houston (via the James Harden trade) to Utah for swingman Royce O’Neale, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

O’Neale, a 6’4” wing, has long been a pivotal member of Utah’s playoff-tested group and has shot 38.1 percent from three in five NBA seasons while taking on difficult assignments on the other end. Brooklyn will roster him by fitting his $9.2 million 2022-23 salary into the $11.3 million trade exception from the James Harden trade to Philadelphia. The Nets had been linked to O’Neale on numerous occasions throughout the week.

The Nets officially announced the trade on the team’s Twitter account just 30 minutes after the start of free agency.

The trade itself drew some confusion from the Nets fanbase. Namely, with Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving out the door, what was the point in dealing away a draft asset for a player that is seemingly win-now? Maybe more importantly, why would the Nets now deal for the exact type of 3-and-D piece that would seemingly suit a superstar core that is no longer in place? Wouldn’t the Nets, headed for a rebuild or at the very least a soft reset, look to maintain as much draft capital as humanly possible for the chance at another cornerstone star?

Regardless, O’Neale gives the Nets an opportunity to build a roster that’s ripe with shooting and defensive versatility around Ben Simmons and... whatever’s left.