Utah Jazz 2015-16 Review: Raul Neto

Feb 6, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto (25) dribbles the ball up the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 6, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Utah Jazz guard Raul Neto (25) dribbles the ball up the court in the game against the Phoenix Suns at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Stewart-USA TODAY Sports /

After performing well as a strarter, Raul Neto was moved to the second unit after the trade deadline and may still be searching for his role with the Utah Jazz.

On the night of the 2013 NBA Draft, the Utah Jazz made trades to acquire the Associated Press College Player of the Year in Trey Burke and the “Stifle Tower” Rudy Gobert in the first round. Since the Jazz had two first round picks that year, fans learned a lot about these names before the draft and knew what these two would bring to the team.

However, later that night, the Jazz would make another trade late in the second round and acquire a relatively unknown point guard from Brazil.

Raul Neto, who was traded to the Jazz in exchange for a future draft pick, suited up for the Jazz’s summer league team as well as Burke and Gobert. While Burke was struggling, many noticed Neto coming in, playing solid defense and showcasing his great court vision and playmaking ability.

Jazz fans began to realize that the 47th pick of the draft could wind up being a big steal.

After the summer league was over, Neto returned back to Spain where he had played for the past two seasons. Finally, in the summer of 2015, two years after he was drafted, Neto reached a buyout agreement with UCAM Murcia, making the move to the NBA and signing with the Utah Jazz.

What followed was a topsy-turvy campaign in which Neto went from presumed D-Leaguer, to starting point guard, to the end of the bench, to being Shelvin Mack‘s back-up.

Pre-Trade Deadline

During the preseason, with Dante Exum on the shelf, Neto was coming off the bench behind Burke, who was the de facto starter. It was a role many fans assumed he would have to start the new campaign. However, before the first game of the regular season, second-year head coach Quin Snyder elected to start the rookie.

Neto remained the starter for the first half of the season, but didn’t always play a lot of minutes. While he had stretches where he proved to be the best option at point guard, there were times where his inexperience showed and he wasn’t able make an impact.

As the season wore on, Neto was more confident and comfortable on the court and was beginning to earn more minutes. In January and February, Neto played 24 or more minutes 14 times, something he had only done five times before that point. In addition to his pesky defense and energy, Neto showed a consistent three-point shot and an ability to create opportunities for himself and his teammates when penetrating.

He averaged 6.2 points and 2.5 assists per game while shooting 40 percent from downtown when he was in the starting lineup.

Post-Trade Deadline

The role that Neto played for the team changed at the trade deadline. The Jazz were able to add some depth at the point guard position when they acquired Shelvin Mack from the Atlanta Hawks. Mack came off the bench behind Neto in his first game with the team, but he played so well that he became the starter before the very next game.

Due to the reduced role, Neto did not see as much time on the court as he had up to that point. Neto only played over 24 minutes in a game one more time to close the season. He finished the season with averages of 5.9 points and 2.1 assists per game with shooting 45 percent from the field and 40 percent from three-point range.

When all was said and done, Neto had a successful rookie season where he was able to play in 81 games (tied with Joe Ingles for most on the team). On February 12, Neto played for Team World in the BBVA Rising Star Challenge during All-Star Weekend. Neto made the only shot he took during the game and finished with nine assists as well.

The Future

Despite starting for 53 of the 81 games he played this season and making the most of his minutes on the court, Neto’s future is very uncertain. When the team added Mack at the trade deadline, we saw Neto’s role and minutes reduced. But when next season rolls around, it is very likely that we see Neto fall to the third string with Exum’s return from injury.

More from Jazz News

Last summer, Neto signed a three-year contract which will keep him with the Jazz through the 2017-18 season. So, for at least the next two seasons, it seems very likely that he will still be on the roster. But a lot of that will be determined by what the Jazz decide to do in the offseason.

What if the Jazz draft a point guard? Wade Baldwin IV (Vanderbilt) and Dejounte Murray (Washington) are a pair of point guards that a few mock drafts have the Jazz selecting with the 12th pick. While it’s true that some mock drafts are just a list of players ranked 1-60 by someone without any thought given to what team is making the pick, there are quite a few mock drafts that explain why the Jazz might go with a point guard in the draft.

What if the Jazz sign a point guard in free agency? Jazz general manager Dennis Lindsey has said that he would like to fill the roster out with veterans this summer. While we don’t know which positions specifically Lindsey is looking at or how he plans to acquire them, there are some noticeable free agent point guards available such as Mike Conley, Jeremy Lin or Seth Curry.

Next: Utah Jazz: At Long Last, Jerry Sloan Receives Coaching Award

In a summer of uncertainty for the organization, Neto is one of many players who is on the bubble of solidifying a spot on the roster. However, if we’ve learned anything about Neto this season, we know he’s going to quietly get to work and grind for his spot on the Utah Jazz.