Bucks add former-Spur Neal, foreign big man


This piece was written by Behind the Buck Pass contributor Kevin Shield, who is a student at Arizona State University.

With the transaction phase of the offseason seemingly nearing its conclusion, the Bucks made two recent moves to help shore up their roster. Of course, the dilemma surrounding Brandon Jennings and the starting point guard spot still needs to be worked out, but that should wrap up the organization’s offseason moves. In the meantime, however, the Bucks have added shooting guard Gary Neal and Serbian center Miroslav Raduljica to the roster.

Neal – who signed a two-year deal Saturday worth nearly $3 million – burst into the NBA spotlight during the Finals this past June with his deep three-point shooting, but he has been a consistent contributor for San Antonio the past three seasons. Though he will be 29 years old when Milwaukee’s 2013-2014 campaign begins, the three years he spent in San Antonio are his only NBA experience. After two years at La Salle and two years at Towson, Neal bounced around Europe until Gregg Popovich and the Spurs gave him his first NBA opportunity.

His numbers have been consistent thus far in his career. He’s scored a shade under 10 points per game with the Spurs each campaign, while his efficiency has not drifted far from his 12.9 career PER in any season.

Neal is definitely a shoot-first type of player, but he’s topped 40 percent shooting from beyond the arc in two of his three seasons. At the same time, he does not pass the ball well for guard. In fact, it seemed like he never passed during this year’s NBA Finals. Neal brings a dismal 12 percent assist rating to the table, to go along with nearly nonexistent defense and rebounding. For Neal to find success in Milwaukee, Larry Drew will need to allow him to find his niche on the court, something Popovich masterfully accomplished. Unfortunately, nobody is comparing Larry Drew to Popovich.

After a stretch where it seemed like Milwaukee was never going to find a backup center, John Hammond has made moves in two straight off-seasons to add depth at the position. Last season’s additions, Joel Pryzbilla and Samuel Dalembert, did not work out, while Larry Sanders enjoyed a breakout season.

The Bucks are trying again this offseason, first signing Zaza Pachulia (this is all you need to know) earlier in the month, and now inking Miroslav Raduljica, a 25-year-old Serbian, to a two-year deal with a third-year team option.

Much like Neal, he has spent his career bouncing around Europe, playing for five teams in four countries. Similar to Pachulia, Raduljica seems to be a change of pace player that could complement Larry Sanders. ESPN lists him at 7-1, 280 pounds – two inches and 45 pounds bigger than Sanders.

This past season he played for one of Ukraine’s top teams, helping them to Ukraine Super League Final, where they lost in seven games. In Ukraine he averaged 14 points per game in just 23 minutes. Shockingly, however, the NBA and the Ukraine super league are not very comparable. Raduljica will be a bit of a wild card this year, but his ceiling seems to be a bench player who can give teams a different look from Sanders. Maybe he can even become the next Primoz Brezec!