Gary Neal doesn’t look like a point guard and he doesn’t really play like one. He was closer to Tim Duncan than Tony Parker in assist percentage.
But does this mean he should not earn playing time behind Parker?
One would assume that Neal would be better suited for a role that requires, being a career 41.9% 3-point shooter, to spot up away from the ball rather than orchestrate the offensive attack. Integrating other options into the offense is better suited for Manu Ginobili.
Statistically, Neal was an effective stopgap for Parker. The numbers indicate that he was well above-average at point — Neal averaged 25.9 points per 48 minutes while posting a 17.3 PER, according to 82games.com.
Then it should come as no surprise that Neal will be vying for minutes at point guard, which seem more attainable than the logjam at shooting guard.
“Last year we went on a 20-game winning streak and won 10 games in a row in the playoffs with me as the backup point guard,” Neal said. “Unless injuries or something occurs, or I get beat out for the spot, I’ll probably be the backup point guard (again).”
Neal logged 22% of his minutes at point guard, operating as the primary backup for Parker. Gregg Popovich altered his rotation to compensate for the loss of eight-year veteran and then-incumbent backup point guard T.J. Ford.
Popovich may have already tipped his hand. Neal started at point guard in yesterday’s intrasquad scrimmage for the silver team, finishing with 17 points and five assists in 31 minutes. Neal brought the ball up the floor in addition to working on screens and pin downs away from the ball.
A similar role could be in his grasp this season. He will have to outplay Patty Mills and Nando De Colo but he is capable of doing so.
Even though he does not technically look the part.