SALT LAKE CITY — Last week's flurry of activity brought the Utah Jazz up to 15 players for their 2017-18 roster, but that wasn't the end of their roster building.
The Jazz have a surprise signing in store and one that will come as no surprise to anybody who paid attention during the past two weeks of summer league action.
In the wake of Gordon Hayward's departure, the Jazz have agreed to terms with small forward Royce O'Neale on a three-year deal that includes one fully guaranteed season, according to sources.
O'Neale, a former Baylor wing, has spent the past two years playing professionally in Europe.
Utah will also sign forward Eric Griffin, one of the Summer Jazz standouts, to a two-way contract, according to sources.
Griffin will opt out of the final year of his contract with his Italian club, Pallacanestro Cantù, to join the Jazz on one of their two available two-way contracts. Utah intends on using both two-way contracts, and Gonzaga point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is a candidate for the second agreement.
The addition of O'Neale will bring Utah's roster to 16 players once contracts have been finalized for newcomers Thabo Sefolosha, Ekpe Udoh and Jonas Jerebko as well as returning Joe Ingles.
Despite an ESPN-fueled rumor to the contrary, however, the Jazz do not have any trades on the table that would help them whittle that number down to the maximum of 15, according to sources.
That means the Jazz will either have to waive one player or pull off an unexpected trade before the NBA season starts in mid-October.
Only two current Jazz players — previous second-round picks Raul Neto and Joel Bolomboy — won't have fully guaranteed contracts this season. Neto is set to make $1.5 million, but the backup point guard's deal is nonguaranteed. Bolomboy has a partially guaranteed deal, with only $452,625 of the former Weber State standout's $1.3 million salary being guaranteed, according to Spotrac.com.
By going into training camp with one extra player under contract, Jazz management is hoping to create extra competition to bring out the best in those guys fighting for roster spots.
The short-term moves they've made since Hayward announced he was bolting for Boston have been focused on team flexibility, versatility, depth, providing more defensive moxie and keeping plenty of options for the future. Management is banking on Jazz coach Quin Snyder and his developmental staff to coax the NBA talent out of multiple players with untapped potential a la Joe Ingles.
Part of that will happen at the NBA level, while some development will take place at the SLC Stars level with their two-way contract players.
Two-way contracts, introduced this year as part of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, allow teams to sign one or two players and assign them to their G-League affiliate while retaining their NBA rights without taking up one of the 15 roster spots.
These two-way players can earn up to $250,000, which is about 10 times what many NBA hopefuls earn in the recently renamed NBA Development League (now Gatorade League). The league is hoping this enhanced path to the NBA will entice more players to remain in the U.S. rather than going overseas to pursue professional careers.
The 6-foot-6 O'Neale opted to play internationally after going undrafted out of Baylor in 2015. He has played basketball in Germany (Ludwigsburg) and in Spain (Gran Canaria) since his college career ended, and recently signed to play in Lithuania with BC Zalgiris.
O'Neale has played on NBA summer league teams with Boston, Golden State, Orlando and New Orleans. He averaged 4.6 points and 3.6 rebounds with the Pelicans in five games in Las Vegas this past week but only shot 41.7 percent overall and 15.4 percent from 3-point range.
The Jazz are looking for him to compete for the sixth wing spot in a guard/forward rotation that also includes Ingles, Sefolosha, Rodney Hood, Alec Burks and Donovan Mitchell, not to mention Joe Johnson and Dante Exum on occasion.