With teams looking for any kind of quality in the empty free agency market, the San Antonio Spurs releasing Gary Neal becomes incredible news for contending teams looking to add a quality shooter off the bench, sparking the interest of the Chicago Bulls, Golden State Warriors, Oklahoma City Thunder, Detroit Pistons, Washington Wizards and the Memphis Grizzlies.
The question is if Neal would like to play for a team that’s going to be in the playoffs, or maybe try and find himself on a slightly bigger role with teams like the Jazz, Bucks, 76rs or Bobcats, although it’s unlikely any of them will be giving him a starting spot, and being a bench player for a team that’s going to win a lot is better than playing a bit more and finishing on the losing end most of the time.
Money isn’t going to be plentiful, because teams won’t be offering anything more than the Mid-Level exception (mini, for most of them), or maybe even a minimum deal. Neal was a restricted free agent, but the Spurs withdrew their qualifying offer for $1.1 million, making him an unrestricted free agent after three seasons with the team.
Neal has brought the same stuff he has for the past three years – coming off the bench, mostly as a shooting guard, averaging just under 10 points per game with a lot of speed and energy, and especially some spectacular outside shooting, hitting 39.8% of his shots throughout his career.
It’s hard to find a team that doesn’t need a guy like Neal, and the Bulls, Warriors and Grizzlies will probably be the strongest to pursue him, feeling that they’re still a few pieces short for making a more solid challenge at the NBA title. The Thunder do have Reggie Jackson, Derek Fisher and Jeremy Lamb, but Neal is a bit more proven, and better, than at least two of them. The same goes for the rest of the teams on the list, who might not use him as a sixth man, but should have big role off the bench to hand Neal if he doesn’t make this about money and playing time, but more about chances to reach the NBA finals.