I’ve got a great idea for a new TV show. It’s going to be called My Two Garys, and it will follow two basketball players who starred at small college programs. They will struggle through several years playing overseas or in the D-League before finally getting their chance in the NBA. The catchy title comes from the unexpected surprise that both players are named Gary!
This genius idea for a hit show comes from the real stories of NBA players Gary Forbes and Gary Neal. Gary Forbes, a 6’5″ forward was a standout at UMass. He went undrafted, spent a year in the D-League and a year in Italy before catching on with the Denver Nuggets this season. Gary Neal, a 6’4″ shooting guard, played for tiny Towson University, spent a year in Spain and two in Italy before making the San Antonio Spurs roster this season. Each player is older than 25, took circuitous routes to the NBA, but are making huge impacts in their rookie seasons. Below is a table showing some of their statistics so far this year:
Each player has been a solid bench contributor for their teams so far. Their biggest contribution to their teams has been the ability to score and to do it extremely efficiently. Each also has a very well-rounded game, not common among younger rookies. This completeness to their skills is much more common to players who have had D-League or International experience before joining the NBA.
The well rounded game each has displayed is showing up in several advanced metrics as well. The indication is that the two Gary’s are doing more than just scoring efficienctly and are having a huge positive impact on their teams. Gary Forbes has posted a WP48 of 0.194, which is 3rd among all rookies who have played at least 30 minutes, and the 4th best total on the Nuggets. Gary Neal has posted a WP48 of 0.161, which is 5th among rookies who have played at least 30 minutes, and the 5th best mark on the Spurs. When looking at their marks compared to their teammates, keep in mind that we are talking about two of the best teams in the Western Conference.
To put those numbers in context a WP48 of 0.100 is considered average. Of the rookies who have played at least 30 minutes only 9 have posted a WP48 above 0.100. At their current minutes and production level Forbes would produce 3.1 wins this season for the Nuggets and Neal would produce 3.2 wins for the Spurs. These are not overwhelming numbers, but strong for a couple of wings off the bench, and very strong for a couple of rookies.
Every year a few players sneak into the NBA, after honing their skills elsewhere for a few years, and make a huge impact. The two Garys appear to be the guys this season. Each has had time to develop their skill sets and develop an understanding of what they do well and what they don’t do well. They have learned to contribute in multiple areas and play within their strengths. The two Garys have obviously earned their spots in the league. All signs point to them playing in the NBA for many years to come.