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Despite ESPN Predictions, Unlikely Royce O’Neale Will Start For Jazz

Royce O'Neale #23 of the Utah Jazz is fouled by Clint Capela #15 of the Houston Rockets in the first half of Game Four during the first round of the 2019 NBA Western Conference Playoffs at Vivint Smart Home Arena on April 22, 2019 in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Photo by Gene Sweeney Jr./Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – In ESPN’s most recent power rankings writers singled out a player from each team who could have a breakout season.  Tim McMahon chose Royce O’Neale as his guy because he is probably the Jazz’s best perimeter defender.

McMahon said O’Neale can hold his own against some power forwards and fans should not be surprised if he starts for Utah.

On the latest Jazz Notes podcast, Sam Farnsworth and Cleon Wall both liked what O’Neale can do for this team, but questioned whether or not he should be a starter.

“Let’s say the Jazz did not go out and get a Bojan Bagdonovic,” said Farnsworth.  “That could have opened the door a little more for Royce to get…into the starting lineup.  But with the players the Jazz got, I don’t see any scenario of Royce coming in as a starter.  And there is a chance he is maybe the 7th guy in instead of the 6th guy as I like Jeff Green a lot, too.”

Wall went through potential starters at each position for Utah and believed O’Neale is not better than any of those players, but O’Neale will absolutely get playing time.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if he is the first…guard or wing to come in, no matter who goes out first.  Whether it’s Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell or Joe Ingles, but I just don’t see him starting.  I could see him finishing some games depending on what’s going on (in the game),” said Wall.

Farnsworth wanted a better definition of breakout player when he picked his candidate but eventually settled on Emmanuel Mudiay.

“He’s had flashes of…lottery pick brillance.  And then he’s had his moments where he has been vanilla and faded into the background.  I think a lot it had to do with coaching compatibility.  Last year, statistically, was the best year of his career.  Now he’s coming to a situation in Utah where he is not expected to carry any load, he’s just expected to come in a provide a spark,” said Farnsworth, “and I think in those moments there are opportunities to show what he has been able to do and what he could do.”

Wall admitted that if Mudiay does have a breakout year, he probably won’t stick around Utah because he could get a better job on another team.

Wall nominated Dante Exum as his candidate.

“He’s been a guy who has been injured a lot, he’s had things go against him…but to me he reminds me of a guy who is calm and at peace with himself.  And it looks like he just needs to get on the court and not be ‘the guy’ but just be himself.”

Wall liked that management and Exum himself would not say which position he would play this season.

In the podcast, the guys also talked about if the Jazz should be ranked 7th and why Mike Conley is receiving so much love. Listen to the full conversation below.

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