(My more dedicated readers might notice that the majority of this material has been used in previous blog posts. I’ve written plenty about Gary Neal before the February trade and have exhausted the topic so there’s not much to revisit and change here.)
The second-ever Towson University product in the league is seemingly a good professional. Reports from Rick Bonnell and pre-season videos at the Hornets website referred to him as one of the players who started to get ready for the season very early in the summer. Even with this being a contract year for Neal, I can’t do anything but show respect towards him as a basketball player due to these reasons.
However, it’s fair to conclude that Neal’s this season’s Charlotte stint was one of the poorest shooting years ever, if not the single worst (although Lance might have something to say about that). He’s a supposed three-point specialist, yet he put up an embarrassing streak of pathetic shooting from long range that ranks among the all-time worst.
The streak in question is one where the player attempts at least one three-point shot in X number of consecutive games but doesn’t shoot better than 25% from long range (going 1/4 thus can thus be assumed as the best possible outcome in a game during this streak, however, 0/1 might not sound that bad as well when the shooter is missing his attempts either way).
The following is data on such streaks from Basketball-Reference:
1. Tony Dumas – 15 games (1995-96 + 1996-97)
2. Clifford Robinson – 12 games (2005-06)
2.5 Shawn Marion – 12 games (2004-05 + 2005-06, if you discount the 2005 Playoffs in between the the two seasons, which doesn’t make sense to me)
3. John “Hot Plate” Williams (1990-91), Horncats’ good old friend Rod Higgins (1992-93), Charles Barkley (1993-94 + 1994-95, discounting POs), Penny Hardaway (1994-95 + 1995-96, discounting POs), Gerald Wilkins (1997-98), Earl Watson (2004-05), Jamaal Tinsley (2005-06), Thabo Sefolosha (2013-14 + 2014-15, discounting POs), Lance Stephenson (2014-15), Gary Neal (2014-15) – 11 games.
As I said back then we might have changed our name to the Hornets, but we have to face the fact that we’re the Lolcats for life. Two names from the same team during the same season on this list is an unbelievable feat. Especially when Gary Neal is by far superior as a shooter than anyone on here, unless you loved Uncle Cliffy’s twilight years.
Neal’s 15-game stretch of 8.5 points per game, 2.9/9.7 FG (29.7%), 0.9/3.7 3PT (23.2%) was one for the ages. Fortunately, he (at least) followed it up going 36.4% from the field against Indy and then eliminating the possibility of joining Clifford Robinson with the 12th game of such bad three-point shooting by hitting two of three long-range bombs against Minnesota.
As for Gary’s whole season for Charlotte (10.1ppg, 3.3/9.3 FG (35.9%), 0.9/3.1 (29.3%)), he’s in the company of a washed up Gilbert Arenas (2010-11), rookie Kemba Walker (2011-12), Warriors version of John Starks (1998-99) and an old and erratic as ever Vernon Maxwell (1999-00) (filters – FG% worse than 37%, more than 9 FGAs, 3PT% worse than 31%, more than 2 3PAs, more than 25 games played). At Neal’s shooting volume, he’s having one of the five worst seasons ever.
It’s somewhat easy to pile on Gary. To be fair, he has played his share of minutes alongside limited offensive players which has forced him to take on a huge role on offense (his usage rate of 24.5% is on par with players like Greg Monroe and Brandon Jennings). With his game being centered around long twos off curl screens and Steve Clifford going to just that with numerous play-calls for the set “Floppy”, it can be difficult for him to maintain good percentages.
Some of the bench unit combinations did, however, receive a spark upon Marvin Williams joining them. My favorite one was any line-up that features the four of Biyombo, Marvin, Neal and Roberts. The bunch provided enough shooting around Biz’s picks and darts to the basket to score 107.5 points per 100 possessions in 94 minutes of playing time (while yielding a net rating of +5.9).
A Gary Neal side pick-n-roll with Williams was a very dangerous play.
Neal could also curl into a pick-n-roll with Marvin to suck in the defense and let Jason Maxiell set a back-screen on Brian Roberts’s defender.
Overall, though, the Gary Neal experience this season was a disappointing one. Him being inserted alongside the starters generally produced horrible results. Among the five most-used line-ups that feature Gary Neal and the starters only one has a positive net rating (three of them are worse than -11.1 per 100 possessions). It isn’t a coincidence that it features Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, who can make up for Neal’s defensive shortcomings.
Meanwhile the Al Jefferson, Kemba Walker and Gary Neal line-ups have been beaten by 8.3 points per 100 possessions, while clocking a considerable 225 minutes.
His last ever play for the franchise has him unnecessarily helping out on a drive and giving up a costly three in a game that we eventually lost.
The most memorable Gary Neal play of the season might be this one, which then earned him the recognition of Lolcat of the Week, when he followed up a dismissed lay-up attempt by stepping back to shoot a three on a 2-on-1 fast break.
Coach Clifford responded by benching Neal for the rest of the game.
After the trade I predicted that Gary would all of the sudden start making his three-point looks in Minnesota and that some of this was just a case of the Charlotte Bobcats franchise curse that renders any shooter to approach Time Warner Cable Arena in a Horncats uniform as bad as the NBA players who had their talents stolen by the Nerdlucks. My prediction was that Neal’s three-point shooting percentage would be better than the one of Mo Williams.
The prognosis is a moot point, given how much WIlliams fired up the ball in Charlotte. A comparison between the two would not be an unbiased one. Yet I can point out that Minnesota’s Gary Neal raised his percentage to 35.5%. In my opinion, a huge variable in all of this is the role we tried to force upon him. We received exactly what we deserved when trying to buid the offense of our second-unit around Gary Neal curling off a screen.
Still using ForeignCredits.com for my grading system.