Gary Neal is not a rookie to Pop, a very good one to everybody else


People in the NBA cirlces we bloggers don’t have access to must have it in for Greg Monroe. That, or Gary Neal is the sunshine of their lives. As much as I’ve watched Neal’s rookie season, and I’ve viewed almost all of it very closely, I can’t explain how the undrafted rookie finished ahead of the Detroit Pistons’ Monroe in both Rookie of the Year and All-Rookie voting.

Neal finished fifth in voting for the Rookie of the Year Award with 19 points, three second place votes and one of the third place variety, putting Neal behind award-winner Blake Griffin and other top freshmen John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins and Landry Fields. And today, Neal was named to the All-Rookie 1st Team with the four previously mentioned first years.

Monroe, on the other hand, finished sixth behind Neal in ROY voting and was named to the All-Rooke 2nd Team.

There’s some history involved in Neal’s assignment to the All-Rookie 1st Team, as the press release issued by the San Antonio Spurs mentions:

Neal becomes the second undrafted rookie to make the NBA’s All-Rookie First Team in league history, joining Jorge Garbajosa who earned the honor in 2006-07 with the Toronto Raptors. Overall, only 10 undrafted rookies have been named to either a first or second All-Rookie team in history.

Neal averaged 9.8 points per game for the Spurs, shooting just a blade of grass under 42% from 3-point in his rookie season. Greg Monroe averaged 9.4 points per game for the Pistons this season and added 7.5 rebounds per game.

As we’ve learned with many things, though, numbers aren’t enough. So I reached out to Patrick Hayes of ESPN TrueHoop Network blog PistonPowered to give us some words on Monroe:

The thing that hurts Monroe when it comes to awards voting is the same thing that made him such a solid player for Detroit this season: subtlety. Watching the Pistons, it was pretty common, especially in the second half of the season, to glance at the box score in the third quarter or so and say, “Wow … Monroe has 12 points and 10 rebounds already?” He’s not particularly explosive or athletic. He scored points by taking good shots, by crashing the offensive glass and by using craftiness around the basket to make up for his lack of athleticism. He’s a throwback player to the earlier 2000s Detroit teams — selfless, hard-working, smart and largely anonymous outside of Detroit. Monroe’s advanced stats clearly make him one of the five best rookies in the league this year. Monroe was also hurt by the fact that the Pistons were not just bad this season, they were unwatchable, perhaps the most boring and predictable team in the NBA to watch on a night-to-night basis. That doesn’t change the fact that Monroe was absolutely Detroit’s best player this season when you factor in production, attitude and upside.

Gary Neal and Landry Fields had nice seasons for better teams, which gave them more exposure. They also played with more talented teammates who created more opportunities for them. Monroe’s consistency this season is most remarkable simply because the Pistons were an absolute mess of a team and organization around him. He was the lone bright spot for Detroit, but surrounded by so much chaos, it’s easy to see why Monroe has been overlooked by media in the Rookie of the Year voting and now by coaches in the All-Rookie team voting.

None of this is meant to bash Gary Neal and the recognition he received. Neal endured a long, difficult journey to the NBA, the itinerary of which I’d rather not review. He joined the Spurs well aware of what his job was. He stuck to the party line. Neal understood that the willingness to play defense was what got him onto the summer league roster, and he earned a contract with the Spurs based on his ability to shoot 3s like his life depended on it. Which, in a career sort of way, it was. But does that mean he had a better rookie season than Monroe, who had far more responsibility put on his shoulders?

Where Neal’s postseason honors reach their peak level of intrigue is when you think about how much he shouldn’t be the one in silver and black receiving said honors. In fact, you could easily have predicted that Neal would be a distant third on the Spurs in Rookie of the Year voting. Tiago Splitter joined the Spurs the same month as Neal with far more promise, pedigree and expectations. Ditto for James Anderson.

And yet, here we are. Both the media and coaches honored Gary Neal by launching him into its top-5 rookies this year. And that may be where I end up second guessing myself all summer. Enough people in two different groups of basketball people gave Neal enough votes to finish as essentially the fifth-best rookie this season.

I and others may think it was a mistake, but that’s been the story of the season regarding Neal. A lot of head scratches and thoughts of this can’t be right. If I learned anything from following along this year, there’s only one thing you can do: just Neal with it.

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  • NYC

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa. Just Neal with it?? Whoa, Andrew. Whoa.

  • MSteele_in_Éire

    Credit to Neal, agree with you though on the Munroe front, he was the lone (and I mean lone) bright spot for Detroit this season. If memory serves, he doesn’t block a lot of shots but he does get a good amount of steals for a big.
    I feel Munroe deserves it more than Neal but I also feel that Neal deserves it more than Fields, who tailed off alot. Neal got better over the season, barring a short slump. He should (and will) be kept around for the next couple of years but he’s gotta improve on his defense. He’s so valuable because he’s extremely cheap and he can shoot under pressure which so is different for many of shooters (Bonner, RJ, even Hill).

  • Rob

    Then go after Monroe. If he excelled so well with a mediocre team…imagine what he might be able to do with…I don’t know…the Spurs?

    That aside…Neal deserves his accolades. Undrafted!!! C’mon…who would have expected what he did as an “undrafted” rookie compared to those drafted?

  • Rob

    Another attribute that was seen regarding Neal… the young man is a gamer. He might not be quite the “baller” or polished player as some others…but he’s a gamer for sure. Those are intangibles one just doesn’t teach to somebody…That comes from the heart. And it would be my bet that Neal spends much time this off season working on the things that will help him become better at the things he knows he needs to improve upon and not just work on them…get better at them.

  • Wayne

    Andrew, you are a dipshit. Ok, maybe not.

    But, maybe it had to do with positions. You know, Griffin and Cousins are kind of bigs like Monroe.

    I’d also say that Gary probably should have been ahead of Landry Fields.

  • Humberto

    Neal before Zod is funny too ;p

  • Tim in Surrey

    My thoughts exactly, w/r to Fields. He started fast and played in NYC, which is why he was on the first team. But ultimately Neal, Monroe, Ed Davis, and Paul George were all better players, IMHO.

  • Drom John

    Not bad for Neal, the second best rookie on the Spurs.

  • badger

    Neal will have a long NBA career, and he deserves it!! I was most impressed with his ability to create good shots on the in between game and running floaters ala TP. If he improves, just a little, he will be the Spurs version of Jason Terry. Please do not trade this guy!!!!!

  • MSteele_in_Éire

    With reference to the ‘already having Griffin & Cousins’, last year they had four PGs and a ‘big’. 07-08 season there wasn’t a single PG or guard for that matter in the team. My point is that it’s an award to reward the five best rookies in the league, and IMO that would be Griffin, Wall, Cousins, Monroe & Neal (in that order).

  • Anonymous

    @987471907f4b2441ab25aab4beffa894:disqus Let’s not be homers, or hate on Fields because he played in NYC (I’ve read some of the responses on other sites re Landry).
    The guy shot nearly 50% from the field, put up respectable numbers–and he started all but one game for a playoff team
    .I think it’s mind-boogling that both the media and coaches did not put Greg Monroe on the first team.
    Gary Neal deserves the accolades, but he should have been on the second team in all NBA rookie assessments.. Monroe started 60% (48 of 80) of the games for the Pistons.
    This oversight ranks right up there with the fans voting Yao MIng starter center in the allstar game.

  • BlaseE

    This is just another reminder that we won’t have Summer League this year. So lame.

  • Bruno

    Who is the #1? Splitter? JA?

  • Bruno

    Look at #4
    We could have used more this guy…

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  • Justin

    Yeah, but according to Pop, he just wasn’t ready to play. This was Pop’s biggest coaching mistake of the year.

  • Bruno

    No, maybe the 3rd biggest.Lineup change and playing the starters in game #82 were bigger. 

  • Junierizzle

     WOW Splitter was N0. 4 and he didn’t even come close to the same games played or minutes played as the other guys in the top ten.

    Kind of off topic but anyone else notice that Bogans is lighting it up from three for the BULLS. Dude is shooting 50%. I’m happy for the dude but man, he couldn’t put it in the ocean when he was with the SPURS.

  • Bruno

    In this playoffs he lead Spurs in PER…How great would be if Pop let the guy play more than Bonner…

  • Rob

     Agreed that Splitter should have played more and Bonner less.  But what does that say for the team that Splitter was probably the second best option big to be played?
    It always seems to take us back to the point that the Spurs NEED to add a proven, experienced, athletic big to the roster.

  • este

    Completely off topic but Bynum is the dirtiest player in the NBA. Youtube his flagrant fouls on Beasley and Gerald Wallace and you will see this guy might turn out to be a bigger problem than Artest. The NBA needs to send that over rated clown a message and suspend him for about 20 games if not more.

  • MSteele_in_Éire

    I don’t totally agree, Bynum has a few bad fouls but there are dirtier players than him. Personally I think it’s harsh on “bigs”, because if they’re going in for an open shot, a guard could hit him hard on the head and it’s just considered a foul, but if a big does the same it will usually be considered a flagrant. Take Dwight Howard for instance – he’s been fouled over 250 times this year (I think) and hasn’t got a single flagrant foul called in his favour whereas he has been called for plenty of flagrant fouls. Bynum must get hit a stack of times and not get calls which will become very fustrating but I do agree that what he done to Barea and Beasley were ‘punk’ moves, could have seriously injured either of them.

  • Justin

    Ok, I’ve been mulling this trade over so here goes… 

    NO gets:
    Parker, McDyess, Anderson, and this years 1st and 2nd round picks

    SA gets:
    Paul and Ariza

    There are several reasons why this trade could work. 1.  Paul may walk away from NO anyway so at least the Hornets can get a good (and reasonably) priced PG who is tied down for several more years. 2.  If the Hornets were to pull the trigger on this before June 30, they would save over $6mil in cap space assuming Dyess retires (which is a good bet).  So the Hornets would get a good PG, cap space, a good young prospect, and two draft picks which would help them rebuild.  The Spurs would get a great PG plus the perimeter defender we’ve needed.  Sure, RJ would still be on the books, but even with all his faults, he would surely play better with Paul than with Parker.  Perhaps we could keep both RJ and Ariza or flip RJ plus another young gun for a decent big.

  • Junierizzle

     No one will trade for CP3 unless he signs an extension. I think CP3 has had enough of the small market thing. He’s going to NY or LAL.

  • GoSpurs50

    Any chance spurs try to trade Parker to Orlanda for Dwight Howard? Even if we need to give up McDyess, Splitter and other pieces…

    Howard, Ginobli, and Duncan would be a great core!


  • TD BestEVER

     Spurs have ZERO chance at Howard……..we are cheaper and smaller than Orlando……….why would he want to come here…….The only chance we had at BIG name FA’s would be to start spending $………as long as we do what we did this year we have no chance other than get lucky in the draft again………

  • TD BestEVER

     Ya SA has had the same problems for like 3 years……….Our FO is sorry as shit…….at some point you have fix the MAJOR issues and leave the minor one’s for another time………But our team does it backwards………..


     Gary Neal is a BALLA!  Next subject,

    Is Splitter and Duncan the front court 1-2 punch that the Spurs need to win? 


    No Offense to Splitter,

    but he is just not the guy.  No explaination nec…He’s just not.  In this leauge, at the 5 spot, and playing in the west, He’s no more than an overpaid roleplayer.  When the heat is on in playoff atmosphere, against the leauge’s finest…He’s not even close.

    Parker Ginnobbli, and Duncan.  SOLID!  However; Duncan must put in work in the offseason.  Body is not strong.  Too light, cant get his spot in the low block any longer.  Timn’s skill set.  Neeeds to improive his strength and wortk on nis body.  Needs mandated weight room time, ALL Off season.  Duncan gets this done in the offseason, moves to 5 spot…He can play three more years.

    Hill is a keeper, but also good trade bait.  In the current NBA…Back up point guard, should be bigger, stronger, more physsical than your starter. 3 guards on Roster.  Tony, Big Guard, Balaced ofense/defense guard.

    Help Blair to get his head right and learn to take care of his body.  Get his weight down, Move him to PF and let him bang.

    Neal.  Back up 2 guard, Period.  24 minutes per game, per night!  A Must!  BUt, work on his defense in the offseason.

    Besides, Anderson, Everybnody else on bech including,  RJ and Bonner…..Let them go.  Cannot compete in this new NBA, Period!  Not personal…Just Real.

    Via trade, Free Agency, etc…Bring in two solid Bigs and a solid 3.  Bangers…Tough players…Guys that play above the rim, Athletes.  No more choir boys.

    Work Anderson back into rotation immediately.

    Result…Spurs back in the game.

    Ironically, this can be done With or without Flopovich, as much as I would like to see a change! 

    Besides, Ginnobli, Parker and Duncan are player coaches on the floor.

    Guess we will see… 

  • Justin

    I see your point about small market teams, but LA is almost definitely out of the question.  They have virtually no cap space for the next 159 years.  NY might be a possibility for him though.  However, the Knicks have virtually no trade assets.   

  • Colin Rigney

    “Our FO is sorry as shit”


  • Anonymous

    Congratulations to Neal–and to Manu, who was selected to 3rd team All-NBA.

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