Following the drafting of Trey Lyles in June, the Jazz looked to take a complacent mindset towards the rest of the off-season. In an early July interview with a local radio station, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsey stated that they’re strategically staying out of the the wing market in free agency. As the offseason went on, it became apparent that Lindsey and the Jazz organization became resistant to spending big money on any outside talent. But Utah’s relative defiance to pursuing free agents didn’t mean that they didn’t want to make some additions to the team.
During July, the Jazz were able to sign some of their more high profiled “Draft-And-Stash” talent. The team started out that slate by signing high-profiled German big Tibor Pleiss, who’s a 7’2 center that will be looked at to be an insurance policy behind Rudy Gobert. Alongside that, Utah signed point guard Raul Neto to a 3 year/$2.8 million dollar contract.
At the time of the deal, it appeared that Neto would spend at least the initial season in the D-League, as the main roster seemed to be set with the trio of Dante Exum, Trey Burke and Bryce Cotton. Although that point guard competition will still be intriguing to watch, one major participant has withdrawn. While playing for the Australian National Team in exhibition game against Slovenia, Exum tore his ACL while cutting his way towards the rim.
In Exum’s absence, Neto has gone from a potential D-Leaguer to somebody that could compete for a role inside the team’s point guard rotation. While Trey Burke will probably begin the year out as the starter due to his experience inside Snyder’s system and the NBA in general, Neto will be competing with Cotton for that now-coveted backup point guard role, phrased as such due to Burke’s status as one of the more inconsistent rotation guards in the entire NBA.
While Neto has shared those offensive inconsistencies, there’s one aspect of the offensive end that rookie guard has over Burke: facilitating. While his stats from the 2014-15 season (4.0 assists and 2.7 turnovers per game) are modest, his innate ability is shown when you actually watch him in action.
In terms of his ability as a facilitator, the most appealing thing about Neto is how he can pinpoint where the ball is going to go, whether he’s standing on the perimeter or working in the paint. As you can tell from this compilation, Neto’s facilitating style is similar to Lakers rookie D’Angelo Russell in that they seem to be able to put some spin on the basketball when they dish it off. Neto can work the ball directly into the hands of the cutting big in pick-and-roll:
However, it seems that Neto might be most comfortable with dishing it off while driving towards the paint. Neto usually needs a screen to get around the initial defender, but once he does, he usually does a nice job of maneuvering his way around. While he definitely has occasional lapses where he’s a bit loose with the ball, he frequently does a good job when he’s driving closer towards the rim. While in that process, Neto has the awareness to dish it off to a perimeter teammate or throw little swing passes to a cutting big or wing.
That comfort while cutting has also allowed Neto to be pretty efficient from inside the paint. According to Synergy Sports, Neto shot 60% from inside the restricted area, a better percentage than what Hayward, Exum or Burke averaged (though in a different league). Neto has a good knack for getting to the rim, combining aggression with being a solid ball-handler. Neto isn’t afraid of cutting into the teeth of the defense, which could lead to him getting to the free throw line. And Neto can change speeds while cutting, which allows him to create separation from his opponent.
That ability as a cutter will need to come in handy in the NBA, as he’s consistently had struggles as a shooter. Last season, Neto shot 20 percent from beyond the arc. In the prior two seasons, Neto shot 33 percent (2013-14) and 39 percent (2012-13), which means that you really don’t know what to expect when it comes to his work from beyond the arc.
Reason for those inconsistencies rest with his fundamentals. While it’s not quite as noticeable, Neto suffers from the “Shawn Marion syndrome” — his hands seem to be slightly in front of his face through most of the shot, which doesn’t exactly lead to the most accurate looks in the world. While he’s had prior success from beyond the arc, he might need to rectify that stroke. It’s extremely difficult for a guard to make it without having a stable perimeter game, and the Jazz could still need some outside help.
Outside of his role as a facilitator, Neto’s work on the defensive end is where he definitely has the most NBA potential. Neto definitely works his tail off on that end, showcased by how he navigates around screens or sticks to a driving opponent. That resilient nature allowed Neto to be an analytically sound defender, as opponents averaged .82 PPP or 34% from the field when they were going against him.
With that in mind, Neto still has a few things that it would be prudent for him to adjust as he transitions into the NBA. Perhaps the most glaring weakness about his work on that end is how he recognizes screens. Although he plays with a sense of urgency, Neto struggles to decide whether to work over or under the on-ball screen, and has instances where he runs into the screen. That singular issue could be problematic in the NBA, as those split-seconds where Neto is indecisive means the difference between an opponent guard getting an open or contested look.
Unexpected when he was added during mid-July, Raul Neto could become an important player during his rookie season with the Jazz. Neto’s unselfish nature and knack as a facilitator should make for a pretty solid fit for a Quin Snyder-led squad that puts an emphasis on passing. Also, Neto should be able to transfer that cutting ability over to the NBA by using the screens set by Favors or Gobert.
While those skills should allow him to be an additional piece in the constantly growing puzzle, it might be a bit ambitious to think that he’d be able to contribute in a significant way. Alongside his sheer inexperience playing against NBA competition, Neto’s lack of a consistent jumper could keep him from getting any sort of consistent playing time.
However, with Neto’s potential as a facilitator combined with the sheer energy that he constantly plays with, he seems to have the tools that Quin Snyder looks for in a role player. So although Neto has some glaring weaknesses to his game, how his strengths coincide with the team’s style of play should allow him to be a solid part of the Jazz for years to come.