[Editor's note: Prior to the start of the regular season on Oct. 31, I will be previewing every player on the Spurs' roster, in no particular order. Alphabetical order is lame anyway.]
Overview: In a lot of ways, Neal’s sophomore season was identical to his first year. He converted on 41.9 percent of his 3-pointers both seasons and his points per 36 minutes dropped by a tenth.
The only negligible difference was in Neal’s consistent drop in efficiency from the rim, from 10-15 feet and extending to 23 feet. In each area — aside from the “floater” area between three and nine feet — Neal’s efficiency dropped primarily because his teammates either couldn’t find him open or because Neal struggled to create separation or, quite possibly both.
From a non-shooting perspective, Neal upped his assist percentage without upping his turnover percentage as well.
Role: Neal operated as a de facto point guard, compensating for the loss of incumbent backup T.J. Ford in March. A similar role — in which he can still play away from the ball when in conjunction with quasi-point guard Manu Ginobili — is likely his for the taking this season.
Future: With one year remaining on his initial NBA contract, Neal could be expendable in a trade this season. Neal has been a valuable rotation member for the past two seasons, capably filling in as Tony Parker’s backup last season despite being a perimeter oriented 2-guard. The Spurs do value continuity. But his value is subject to change, especially if Nando De Colo, Cory Joseph and Patty Mills prove to be competent stopgaps.