When the Milwaukee Bucks signed veteran guard Gary Neal to a two-year, $6.5 million deal prior to this season, they weren’t planning on being in this position when the All-Star break arrived — ravaged by injuries and poised to “earn” the first overall pick in this summer’s draft. It was a reasonable deal for a player who could provide much needed three-point shooting to the team’s backcourt.
Now, without much to play for this season, players like Neal and fellow 2013 signee Caron Butler, who could have places in this league as bench pieces for playoff teams, no longer provide much use to a team in full-rebuild mode. Throw in the reported turmoil that Neal has been a part of regarding his relationship with team building block Larry Sanders, and it makes sense for all parties involved that Neal is dealt before the trade deadline on February 20. Trades such as this, however, are often easier said than done.
The type of deal that would make the most sense involves sending Neal to a playoff-caliber team in need of outside shooting, his only above average skill. Neal’s shooting percentages are down this year as he is playing a larger role in his team’s offense than ever, and his usage rate has increased significantly. His three-point shooting still sits at a respectable 36.4 percent and would likely climb higher if given open corner threes like he often saw earlier in his career as a role player for the San Antonio Spurs.
The Houston Rockets make sense as a potential destination, as it is well known that GM Daryl Morey is extremely fond of the three-point shot. There have been rumblings of the Rockets’ willingness to part with young big man Donatas Montiejunas, who hasn’t found a consistent role in the team’s rotation. Montiejunas could be an appealing future piece for the Bucks. The Rockets would need to throw in someone like forgotten point guard Aaron Brooks for the deal to work financially.
There are a number of other teams, such as the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors, who could use shooting help as they push towards the playoffs and have young players on cheap deals that they shouldn’t be too stubborn to part with. The Bucks need to be realistic in understanding that Neal is not a long-term piece, and any players they could get in return with even the slightest potential would be worth making the deal.
Neal’s short and inexpensive contract, paired with his relative uselessness to a cellar dweller, make him a perfect candidate to be shipped out of Milwaukee. His one distinguishable talent could make him a real asset to another team. Hopefully, in a trade season that is sure to be more busy than last year, the Bucks can find a suitor and get some youth in return.