Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Deeper Look at Spurs' Signee Gary Neal

The Spurs made a splash earlier this summer by signing Tiago Splitter to a below-market deal. However, the Splitter deal was not the end of the Spurs' flirtation with impact players in Europe.

The Spurs got their hands on one of the top perimeter free agents available in Europe when they signed 25-year-old combo guard Gary Neal to a three-year deal (terms undisclosed) last week.

Neal was one of the best pure scorers in Europe and was on par with J.C. Navarro as an elite shot-maker in European ball. Neal was an explosive scorer at Towson St. and was the 5th-best scorer in NCAA Div. I in 2006-07, one spot behind Kevin Durant.

Neal starred on Benetton Treviso, a middle-of-the-pack team in Italy this season. Neal led the Italian League (Lega A) in scoring (19.4 ppg), which can't be taken lightly. Italy's Lega A ain't what it used to be, but still remains the 2nd-best domestic league top-to-bottom.

He actually finished the season playing 10 games for Unicaja Malaga in Spain. With Unicaja, Neal was strictly asked to score the ball, and was quite effective dropping 12.6 ppg (41% 3PA) in 20 mins/game.

In 22 Italian League games, Neal averaged 19.4 ppg, 4 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2 spg, 37% on 3PA and 63% on 2PA in 33 mins/game (Neal's numbers in 11 Eurocup games were nearly the same, except he shot a lower percentage). Neal had a stellar adjusted FG percentage of just under 60% for the season.

The first thing you notice about Neal is his terrific all-around shooting ability. Very impressed with his shooting off the dribble. Can hit pull-ups all over the floor going to his left or right.

His vast arsenal of shots includes runners, floaters and bankers. Quality finisher at the rim. Had a subpar year hitting shots on off-ball screens.

Does not require screens to set himself free for scoring opportunities. Can square his defender up and then get to spots to release high-quality shots. Uses hesitation dribbles, crossover and step-backs to great effect.

Primarily a SG but Treviso ensured him with ample playmaking responsibilities. Treviso often had Neal running the pick/roll and he acquitted himself nicely.

Could back-up at point guard in a pinch. Could play him with George Hill or Manu, and Neal could split ball-handling duties with both.

Not sure his defensive chops will be up to Coach Pop's standards. Does a poor job fighting his way around screens--gets hung up too much. Not sure if it's from a lack of alertness or just general indifference. Granted, screens can be held longer (moving) in Europe, but Neal still seems to lack max effort.

Neal appears shorter than his listed 6-4. Good athlete, but does not possess the exceptional athleticism you like to see in an undersized guard. Can he clear shots/create space vs. the longer defenders he will see nearly every night in the NBA?

His combo of solid ball-handling and footwork should allow him to create room vs. length. Plus, his ability to hit off-balance shots (kinda like Jeff Hornacek) should help his transition to the NBA. But it's not a sure thing his in-between game will thrive in the NBA.


At 4:42 AM, Anonymous milaz said...

slighlty unrelated but which would you consider to be the best domestic league if Italy's is the 2nd. I always thought the best leagues were Greece and Spain...

At 10:26 AM, Blogger Dooj said...

Younger players have always had trouble fighting through screens. George Hill had plenty of trouble this past year. I'm expecting the coaching staff in SA to know how to fix this. Thanks for the writeup.

At 11:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

He's a 5-yrs younger and 1/4 the price Roger Mason. Good fit. Not really a PG, fantastic shooter coming off of ball screens.

At 1:01 PM, Blogger Adam Reisinger said...

Good post on Neal, a player I always enjoyed watching in college. Small correction: Towson dropped the "State" in 1997.

At 1:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not bringing this up to slander Gary but this is a young man who has been through a lot. He started his career at LaSalle where he was accussed of rape by a co-ed. LaSalle panicked and kicked him off the team. Eventually he was acuitted. Neal can really score the ball and I'd be amazed if he didn't become a contributor for the Spurs. Pop will know how to maximise his skills.

At 3:26 PM, Blogger jay aych said...

milaz- figured it was a given that ACB is #1. Greek League has some powerhouses and teams like Maroussi, Aris & PAOK are solid, but still think Lega A is better top-to-bottom.

Adam- thanks for the correction on Towson.

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