The New Orleans Hornets will be without point guard Chris Paul for the near future after the All-Star suffered a concussion on Sunday against the Cleveland Cavaliers, but the Hornets have a back-up plan: The NBA Development League.
McNeal, a 6-foot-3 guard, has started all 40 games for Rio Grande Valley this season on his way to averages of 19.5 points, 4.5 assists and 4.2 rebounds while shooting 45 percent from the field and making 56 of his 155 attempts from beyond the three-point arc.
McNeal was included on both the Charlotte Bobcats and Chicago Bulls' Summer League rosters and then joined the Houston Rockets for the preseason before finally ending up in the D-League.
While known mostly for smothering defense and a smooth jumper during his four-year career at Marquette, McNeal has shown this season in the D-League that he can also play both guard positions as opposed to solely being an undersized shooting guard. And, with the call-up of Mustafa Shakur earlier this season to the Washington Wizards and recall of Ish Smith back to the Houston Rockets, McNeal has shown that his point guard skills are more than passable.
Over Rio Grande Valley's last five games (of which McNeal played point guard for a decent portion in each), McNeal is averaging 23.8 points, 6.6 assists, 3.8 rebounds and 2.2 steals while turning the ball over less than three times per game in 36 minutes of action.
With the hiring of new General Manager Dell Demps over the Summer, who formerly served in the same capacity with the Austin Toros of the D-League, it shouldn't be surprising that the Hornets have become more receptive to using the D-League for things of this nature.
McNeal's call-up marks the first time the Hornets have dug into the D-League during the regular season since 2008-09 when they called up Anthony Tolliver and then decided not to play him during his 10-day stay. The only other two players to be called up from the D-League in the history of the Hornets are Marcus Fizer and Tierre Brown.