The San Antonio Spurs are one of the best when it comes to international scouting and drafting impact players deep into the NBA Draft.
In 1997, they were lucky to snag the number one pick which led to Tim Duncan. Since then, they have used the draft to build around Duncan. Drafting late-round “gems” such as Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, George Hill, DeJuan Blair and James Anderson. The list just goes on and on.
This off-season, while their primary focus was to lure Brazilian big man Tiago Splitter to play in San Antonio, another “under-the-radar” move was signing Gary Neal. With Neal, the Spurs got a spot-up shooter with enough handle that can be utilized in pick-and-roll situations. The best part of it? The Spurs were able to lock him up for three-years on the cheap.
In 31 regular season games, Neal is averaging 8.1 points (sixth among rookies) while shooting 41.9% from the field, including 38.0% from behind the arc in 17.9 minutes of playing time. He is known for his shooting stroke and ability to knock down shots and I mean hit big shots at critical parts of the game.
When Hill went out a toe injury, Neal stepped up and became the Spurs’ first option off the bench. In four games with Hill’s absence, he was more than able to fill the void as he averaged 17.7 points and three rebounds while shooting 46.8% from the field and 42.3 percent from behind the arc, highlighted by back-to-back 22-point performances in victories over the Phoenix Suns and the Denver Nuggets.
Against the Suns, Neal struggled to hit open looks from behind the arc, but made up for it by getting to the free throw line making 7-8 attempts. More than just the typical spot-up shooter, Neal displayed just enough lateral quickness and creativity off the bounce to create his own shot.
After that, he was on fire against the Nuggets going 5-7 from the three-point range including the 3-point basket which sealed the Spurs win late in the fourth quarter.
Let’s not forget Neal clearly is an unconventional rookie. His three seasons of experience overseas has proven to be beneficial in his early assimilation with the Spurs system. Not to mention his phenomenal play in the 2010 Las Vegas Summer League opened up many eyes and had people saying, “The Spurs did it again.”