THE SPECIAL ORDER
If I had to order a Gary Neal sandwich, I’d yell over the counter, “3 & D, hold the D!”
Neal came to the Hornets from Milwaukee last year in a trade that saw fan favorites Ramon Sessions and Jeff Adrien pack their bags. But most fans that loved either Sessions or Adrien and they all would have said the same thing, we had to do SOMETHING to address our three point shooting woes. Since lighting up the perimeter for multiple Spurs playoff teams, Neal has an entrenched reputation as a three point shooting role player who can occasionally change games with an aggressive hot streak.
He also has a bit of a reputation as a hot head, clashing with teammates and staff in Milwaukee before being dumped to Charlotte. He also had an undisclosed run-in with the Bobcats not long after he landed in the Queen City. All was quiet while he was in San Antonio which may tell you one of two things. 1. The Spurs organization keeps conflict well-hidden. OR 2. Neal’s situation dictates his mood. There were no other issues and everyone seemed confident it was a one-time deal.
He may not offer a wide skill set but he knows who he is and how he can contribute. Dial him in, call him up, let him fly. Gary Neal is here to shoot threes and chew bubble gum, and Gary Neal hates bubble gum.
POST-CAMP UPDATE: Gary Neal has lost 23lbs and is Steve Clifford’s preseason camp MVP. He looks leaner, meaner and quicker on and off the ball.
Doug Branson @QCHDoug
While Charlotte was taking the NBA world by storm during the early months of the 2013-14 season, they still had major concerns, foremost, a lack of perimeter scoring. In an attempt to hide that flaw, Charlotte acquired Gary Neal in a trade deadline deal with the Milwaukee Bucks. Despite the fact that Neal really doesn’t excel at any other aspects of the offensive game, his perimeter shooting skills paid immediate dividends for the team’s 2nd unit.
Every time that Neal lines up from the perimeter, he showcases an elevated level of confidence. While that self-assurance is definitely warranted, he shot 40% from the perimeter during his 2nd half stint with Charlotte, Neal has moments where that over-confidence can hurt the Hornets. There were a multitude of instances where Neal shot from the perimeter even though he was leveled by heavy pressure or having better scoring options that he can work with.
Despite Neal being a 6’4 guard, he’s basically the furthest thing from being a distributor, which makes him the prototypical “score-first guard.” With all of those flaws in mind, Neal’s ability to change the fate of a game with his perimeter shooting ability makes him a solid option in Charlotte’s backcourt rotation.
In the introduction, Doug Branson mentioned that Neal was a “3 and D” guard but without the defense. While his work on the defensive end definitely doesn’t match up to his ability to score from the perimeter, Neal isn’t exactly a slouch on the other side of the ball.
As a player that made his name by working under the Gregg Popovich regime, Neal consistently showcases a solid amount of effort and focus on defense. While there are cases where he matches up against an opposing guard that’s more quick and athletic than him, Neal definitely has the ability to stay in front of his man. In pick and rolls, Neal is able to decipher whether to work over or under the on-ball screen, which definitely helps his case as a defender.
A pretty consistent perimeter scorer, that can get red-hot at any point in the game. Solid all-around defender while not being the most athletic player in the game.
Dakota Schmidt @Dakota_Schmidt
Dakota Schmidt @Dakota_Schmidt
NUMBER TO KNOW
Gary Neal really only brings one aspect of the game to the court, but it happens to be an aspect that isn’t one of the Hornets’ strong suits. In his short stint with Charlotte last season, Neal provided the team with a consistent and versatile three-point threat off of the bench.
In his 22 games with the Hornets, Neal made 28 three’s on 69 attempts; a very respectable percentage from long-range. His ability to make defenders respect his outside shot opened up the rest of his offense, and he was able to provide Charlotte with a solid spark. In only 22 minutes per game, Neal put up 11.2 points per, and provided the Hornets with a much needed floor-spacer.
Although the additions of Lance Stephenson and P.J. Hairston give the Hornets a couple more guys who can put the ball in the basket, it will still be important for Neal to convert consistently from long range, especially with the second unit.
Number to know: .41 3P%
Neal’s career-high three point field goal percentage is .41. He came close to the mark during his stint with Charlotte last season, converting .406 of his shots from long-range, and it is a number he should aim for this upcoming season. The Hornets need his contributions from distance, especially in the absence of an elite outside shooter, and if Neal is able to shoot 41% from outside, he will be extremely effective in that role.
That 40.6% from last season was a team-high, and his presence added another dimension, at times elevating the offense. As long as Neal can keep his three-point percentage above 40, aiming for 41, he will again provide a solid floor-stretcher and offensive option off of the bench.
Michael Kaskey Blomain @mkbizzy
Between now and Oct. 29th, the Queen City Hoops staff will preview EVERY player on the Hornets roster. Next week: Gerald Henderson.