Gary Neal's brief tenure with the Milwaukee Bucks appears to be nearing its end.
As Marc Stein of ESPN.com recently reported, the team has begun looking for potential trade partners and is determined to move the 29-year-old shooting guard prior to the trade deadline:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Bucks will do everything they can to find a new home for Neal before the Feb. 20 trade deadline, conceding that last summer's signing of the former San Antonio sharpshooter hasn't worked out as planned.
That realization was slammed home over the weekend when Neal and Bucks center Larry Sanders engaged in a heated locker-room argument in Phoenix after Milwaukee's 116-100 loss Saturday to the Suns. Some of the back-and-forth was heard by reporters, with Neal quoted as shouting at Sanders: "I earned my money. Why don't you try it?"
In addition to the confrontation between Neal and Sanders, the former just hasn't provided the Bucks with much production thus far in 2013-14.
Neal is averaging 10.4 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.6 assists on just 39.4 percent shooting from the field and a solid 41.9 percent from three-point territory.
These two factors have clearly made the Bucks explore their options.
But who and what can they get in return for the three-point specialist?
Neal to Oklahoma City for Thabo Sefolosha
That, coupled with the fact that the Thunder are shooting just 34.5 percent from three-point range as a team, makes Neal a valuable asset for them.
Both Neal and Sefolosha are the same age but provide vastly different skill sets.
Sefolosha is a strong one-on-one defender who rarely provides offense, while Neal is a spark who can fill it up in a hurry.
It's going to be hard for the Thunder to consistently replace the 21.3 points per game Westbrook averaged, but Neal could ease the pain of that loss a little bit.
For the Bucks, the move makes a lot of sense.
Sefolosha is making $3.9 million and is set to be a free agent at season's end, while Neal has a two-year, $6.5 million contract.
Milwaukee could use Sefolosha for his solid defense the rest of the year and then part ways during the summer, clearing cap room, while the Thunder could reap Neal's prowess for filling it up quickly through 2014-15.
Ultimately, it all boils down to whether or not the Thunder would deal defense for offense.
Neal to Minnesota for Dante Cunningham
At just 34.9 percent on the year, the Timberwolves rank 19th in three-point shooting and, outside of Kevin Martin, have no one shooting above 40 percent.
Additionally, as Vannuccini illustrates, Minnesota has issues with bench production and efficiency:
According to Hoops Stats, Minnesota is tied with the Portland Trail Blazers at No. 29 in bench scoring. The reserves combine for 23.7 points per game, shooting just 38.9 percent and a dismal 30.3 percent from long range.
Vannuccini points at J.J. Barea or Alexey Shved being possible targets the Bucks could go after, but dealing for someone who won't be on the books next season seems to make more sense.
That's where Cunningham comes into play.
The 26-year-old forward will be a free agent this summer. Through 37 games this season, he's averaging 5.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.1 assists on 45.0 percent shooting from the field.
Cunningham is far from an impact player, but he can fill either forward spot and provide solid minutes.
Caron Butler, Ersan Ilyasova and John Henson have all missed time this season to injury, so having more depth at the 3 or 4 for the rest of the year wouldn't hurt anything.
Not to mention, Cunningham was one of the targets of a Kevin Love rant last week (per ESPN.com). This incident could very well make Cunningham more expendable than he may have been.
Expiring Contracts or Draft Picks?
Neal is a good three-point shooter and can provide any team that wants his services with solid scoring off the bench.
However, that's about the only value he adds.
He's not a particularly good defender, he's limited as a rebounder and he's not great at distributing the ball to teammates. That, in addition to the $3.2 million he'll be owed in 2014-15, make acquiring much in return for him a difficult task.
Finding a contending team who would both want the services of Neal and could afford them isn't an easy task, especially when trying to make salaries match.
The Bucks already have a plethora of second-round picks at their disposal over the next few seasons, so finding expiring contracts in exchange for Neal seems like the most logical solution.
There's a clear chemistry issue between Neal and Sanders, and it's obvious the team has more invested in the latter from a long-term standpoint.
At this point, it's best that the Bucks and Neal part ways.
Not only would it help resolve some of the obvious chemistry issues occurring in the locker room, but it would also allow younger players to see the floor more.
Salary information courtesy of HoopsHype.com.
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