Update: According to multiple sources, the Bucks have reached a two-year agreement with Neal. The exact value of the contract remains unclear.
According to a report from ESPN's Marc Stein, the Milwaukee Bucks are close to an agreement with former San Antonio Spurs guard Gary Neal. Neal entered the offseason as a restricted free agent for the Spurs, but his qualifying offer was withdrawn after the team signed Marco Belinelli. As an unrestricted free agent, Neal was reportedly drawing interest from the both the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks.
In three seasons with the Spurs, Neal averaged 9.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game while shooting just under 40% from the three-point line. He was excellent from deep (41.9%) in his first two years before falling off a bit (35.5%) last season. Neal has a reputation as a gunner, a mold of player the Bucks are all two familiar with, but his generally solid accuracy from behind the arc has typically made up for a happy trigger-finger. He's also not going to play as big a role as Brandon Jennings or Monta Ellis ever did for the Bucks, so the possible damage should be capped.
Defensively, Neal brings some of the same concerns as those that plagued Ellis. He's got combo guard size, so it's hard to figure out exactly who to match him up on, and while he can lock in one-on-one and hold his own, he's prone to blatant lapses that get his team burned. All told, the Spurs were about 4 points/100 possessions better on defense with Neal riding the pine. Milwaukee is pretty familiar with handling this sort of player, and their Larry Sanders-anchored defense has already shown itself to be modestly up to the task, so it's a workable situation at the least. Still, it's going to require a lot of management from the coaching staff to keep the Bucks' bench from collapsing on that end.
Neal offers more depth off the bench to a mostly-filled backcourt (save for one particular spot) that has a starting SG in place, a capable backup point guard, and a rookie combo guard looking to prove himself. As an instant-offense player for the second-unit, one could do much worse. Neal's had his heroic moments, but in general he's been consistently...well, exactly what you'd expect from a mid-summer acquisition by the Bucks.
Early reports didn't speculate on possible terms for the deal. The Bucks still have their room exception available, but that would limit Neal to a two-year deal beginning at around $2.6 million. If he wants more than that, the Bucks will have to eat into their cap space to ink him.
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- NBA Free Agency: Brandon Jennings still has value