When the Wizards signed Gary Neal to a one year, $2.1 million deal over the summer. Everyone knew Washington was bringing him in for one reason and one reason only, to shoot the dang ball. Ernie Grunfeld said as much when the Wizards announced the Neal signing:
"Gary is a proven veteran who will bring us perimeter shooting and experience," said Grunfeld. "Adding him to our rotation makes our backcourt rotation deeper and more versatile."
Neal wasn't brought in to facilitate the offense. He wasn't brought in to give the Wizards another guy who could lock someone down. He wasn't even brought in to be an important part of the offense. The Wizards were supposed to be pretty well stocked at the guard position going into the season.
Of course, that didn't go to plan, but in the meantime, something interesting began to emerge as Gary Neal took on more playing time. No, he didn't add value by becoming a great facilitator or defender, but he doubled-down on the one thing he was good at. Neal shot a career-best 46.5 percent from the field. He also shot 41.0 percent from downtown, the third best mark of his career and the best since the 2011-12 season. He also had another stellar year at the free throw line, making 85.5 percent of his free throws.
Shooting that well from all three areas but Neal in exclusive company this season. The only other players in the 46/41/85 club (who have played at least 500 minutes) this season are Stephen Curry, J.J. Redick, Kawhi Leonard and Jose Calderon.
Unlike the other players on that list, Neal had to do it while shooting a lot of shots that are traditionally frowned upon. He took more shots from the mid-range area this season (136) than he did in the paint (89) or behind the arc (100). He made nearly as many unassisted shots (72) as he did assisted shots (79) and he attempted more shots where a defender was within two feet of him (45) than he did when there was no one within six feet of him (42).
Gary Neal salvaged a lot of garbage possessions this season and turned them into a source of renewable offense for the Wizards this season. Was it enough to make up for his defensive shortcomings? No. Was it even enough to compensate for his minimal offensive value other than shooting the ball? Probably not.
But like we said at the start, Gary Neal wasn't brought in to do the things he couldn't do, and the Wizards didn't pay him like someone who should be able to do the things he couldn't do. They brought him in to get the ball in the hoop by any means necessary when he was on the floor, and he did it at a high level this season.