In the first piece of a series on best case/worst case scenarios for each player on the current Utah Jazz roster, we’ll take a look at backup point guard Raul Neto.
Barring an unforeseen shakeup, the Utah Jazz roster heading into 2017-18 is all but set. As we head into the long basketball-less months of August and September, I wanted to take a look at each member of the Utah Jazz roster and analyze what their best and worst case scenarios will be for the upcoming year.
If the Jazz are to build on what they accomplished last season while recovering from the departure of Gordon Hayward, they’ll need many of their players to live up to their “best case” potential. I’ve mentioned before that the Jazz were as good as they were last year because Hayward, Rudy Gobert and Joe Ingles all stepped up to a level that few saw coming, but were also held back by other key guys such as Rodney Hood, Dante Exum and Derrick Favors failing to improve.
Therefore, as the team takes on a new look, hopefully that will all change next season and several of the guys who failed to make the leap last year will do so this upcoming year. However, to kick off the series, I wanted to start out by covering one of Utah’s lesser touted players – backup point guard Raul Neto.
In Neto’s first year with the Jazz, he quickly transitioned into a starting role due to the disappointing play of Trey Burke. Neto was serviceable in that role as he averaged 6.2 points and 2.5 assists as a starter compared to 5.3 points and 1.5 assists off the bench. Once Shelvin Mack was added to the fray, Neto was reverted to a bench role, but overall he was still an important player for the Jazz in 2015-16.
In 2016-17, however, due to the acquisition of George Hill, the return of Dante Exum and the continued presence of Shelvin Mack, Neto saw a dramatically reduced role. His minutes per game decreased from 18.5 to 8.6 whereas his games played dropped from 81 to 40. Due to the unprecedented number of injuries the Jazz suffered, particularly to George Hill, and because of constant inconsistency at the point guard position, Neto had a bit of an undefined role last season.
George Hill and Shelvin Mack are now gone, but in their places the Jazz acquired Ricky Rubio, who figures to be Utah’s starter at the point, and recently drafted combo guard Donovan Mitchell who could see time at both guard positions. Meanwhile, Dante Exum looked sharp in Summer League and figures to have a much larger role for the Jazz this season. Therefore, playing time for Neto could once again be hard to come by.
Best Case Scenario
For Neto to have his personal best case scenario, it would probably require one or more of Utah’s guards to be severely hampered by injury or inconsistency, and since that wouldn’t be a good scenario for the team whatsoever, we’ll just leave that possibility out entirely. In truth, Neto’s best case scenario is likely that he gets minutes when his number is called upon and that he capitalizes on them to the best of his ability.
Perhaps on certain nights he’ll need to take on a specific defensive assignment to which the pesky guard will be well suited. Maybe when one of the guys above him on the depth chart is injured or having an off night, coach Quin Snyder can insert him as a spark plug off the bench.
Truly, though, I expect Neto to log several DNPs much like he did last season and wouldn’t be surprised to see his minutes per game (8.6) and games played (40) hover around the same level as in 2016-17. One area where he could use some improvement that may help him reach his best case scenario potential would be in his three-point shooting.
In 2015-16 he shot right around 40 percent and was certainly a reliable deep ball option. However, his percentage dropped to 32.3 percent last season and that decline very well may have figured into his lack of playing time. If Neto can maintain his gritty defense while becoming reliable for one or two three-pointers per game when given the opportunity, that will make him a very nice bench commodity and will likely be his realistic ceiling for next season.
Worst Case Scenario
I suppose given the fact that with the unexpected signing of Royce O’Neale the Utah Jazz now have 16 players on their active roster, you could say that the worst case scenario for Raul Neto is that the Jazz waive his non-guaranteed contract for next season. However, given Utah’s history of injury at the point guard position and the need they have to keep Neto to add point guard depth, I have a hard time believing they’ll go that route.
Not to mention, Neto and Rudy Gobert just so happen to be extremely close friends and while the NBA is obviously a business where tough decisions have to be made, I have a feeling the Jazz front office won’t be looking to anger their star player mere months after their former star departed by trading away one of his best friends.
Therefore, assuming Neto stays put on the team as I believe he will, his worst case scenario likely will be that he rarely gets to see the floor. With a number of guards on the roster, including two that the Jazz hope to develop into stars in Dante Exum and Donovan Mitchell, Neto may find himself riding the pine more often than not, largely only coming into the game during garbage time.
If such ends up being the case it would be understandable, however, it would still be somewhat disappointing given that Neto has shown several flashes of being a formidable player throughout his career. Not to mention, I’d love to be able to see Neto and Gobert’s off-court connection transfer over into actual game action.
Yet the fact remains that there’s a good chance that Neto’s worst case scenario could become reality next season as he could very well find himself out of the rotation completely.
The Utah Jazz still need Neto around to help provide them with much-needed point guard depth and in certain situations, he could definitely be used as a worthy backup. However, if the Jazz stay healthy and their young guns develop as planned, his impact on the team will more than likely be limited.
All stats courtesy of NBA.com