Also, even though this is a sponsored post with affiliate links, all of the opinions in this post are my own. And as an FYI, FanDuel gave me some cash to play its daily fantasy games.
Gary Neal signed for the bi-annual exception last summer as a free agent. It wasn't exactly known how much of an impact he would make this season given that other guards -- most notably Ramon Sessions -- can already play effectively in a reserve combo-guard role.
But over the last week, Neal has stepped up his game as the Wizards have won two of their last three games. Below is a chart to show how he has performed over the past five games he has played in, along with his fantasy points:
To find out how FPP is calculated, click here.
Since Neal has produced at a higher rate over the past week, is it sustainable? Let's take a look at why it may very well be.
Why Neal's production is sustainable
Some things stand out right away from the data above as to why Neal can be a consistent option off the bench for the rest of the season.
- Neal has played 20 or more minutes in each of the last three games. In those games, he has scored at least 12 points each. The Wizards have also won two of those contests.
- Neal contributes in other areas besides scoring. Fantasy basketball makes people fall in love in scoring, but other statistical areas such as rebounding and assists help separate the great from the good players. Neal has remained a relatively steady rebounder, where he will get two or three per game. The six he got on December 4 vs. the Suns was a bonus. Neal has also produced as an assister, where he has dished at least three assists in each of the last two games when he has played 34 or more minutes.
- Neal is shooting at a career-high rate this season. Neal is making 50.4 percent of his shots this season where he is shooting at an average or above average rate from almost everywhere on the court:
- Neal isn't a turnover liability. Unlike John Wall who averages 4.3 turnovers a game, Neal does not even average one turnover per contest. He also has not committed more than two in each of the last five games with increased minutes. Turnovers aren't the biggest stat to look for when selecting players in basketball, but when it comes to picking a reserve players, stats like this are something to watch out for since they generally have less opportunities to score, reobund, or assist consistently.
Why Neal's production may not be sustainable
There are always two sides to every argument. Here are some reasons why Neal's production may "fall down to Earth" sooner rather than later.
- Neal has a career-low usage rate this season. The guard's 2015-16 usage rate is just 19.7 percent, well below the 22 percent rate he has averaged for his career. Players with lower usage rates are generally only going to score so many points, or dish so many assists for example.
- Neal's lofty numbers have been achieved at an a below-average usage rate. When players score more points in any single game, you would think that their usage rate may have gone up as well, especially if this rate is otherwise quite low. Neal's minutes have increased in the last week, but he has also had a below average usage rate in those same three games:
TL;dr version: Neal's lofty numbers aren't sustainable, but he could still be an effective backup fantasy option
I like what I've seen from Neal over the last week, and he is quickly solidifying a role as one of the first guards off the bench for the Wizards. That said, I don't think he'll be averaging 14 or 15 points a game off the bench given his low usage rate and that he isn't likely going to average over 30 minutes a game the rest of the season.
Even though I'm skeptical on Neal's ability to play like a Sixth Man of the Year over the course of a season, he is playing for a team and system that is allowing him to score at a very efficient rate. Since he is, Randy Wittman will reward him with a fair share of playing time that won't just translate to fantasy points, but also wins in the standings.