It has been an up and down season so far for the Utah Jazz point guard position. We’ve seen the highs with Ricky Rubio playing good controlled basketball and Dante Exum bringing explosiveness and heat off the bench, changing games with his pace and finishing ability. We’ve also seen the lows, with both of them under-performing at times, and even worse, not being able to see them play at all as they deal with injuries. Rubio left last night’s game against the Clippers with some hamstring tightness which has been a nagging injury ever since last postseason. Dante Exum has developed a bone bruise from his ankle sprain which has caused a delay in his recovery and timetable in getting back on the court. These injuries have hurt the Jazz, but not enough that it has directly affected their record.. yet. The Jazz went 6-0 in a cupcake stretch without Ricky Rubio, and have managed to get right in the thick of the playoff race without a healthy Dante Exum. A big reason that the Jazz have been able to keep things rolling amid the injuries to their point guards, is because of Raul Neto.
Raul Neto is like a 2003 Honda Accord. That’s not a diss at all, in fact, 2003 Honda Accords are actually great cars. I had one a few years back and it was one of the best cars I ever owned. It never ever gave me problems. It always got me where I needed to go. It had some pretty underrated speed and acceleration, and would surprise me sometimes with some hidden juice coming out of the gates at a stoplight. It was also a pretty good looking vehicle, the perfect mix of sporty and classy, but still conservative and humble. Tell me I didn’t just describe Raul Neto??
There’s a perfect example of Raul Neto’s impact, and it happened just a few hours ago in last night’s win over the Clippers. After Rubio came up a bit gimpy after a heroic steal and three-point play, Neto checked in as his replacement. The Jazz were up 1 at that point with just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter. He drilled a three-pointer with 7 seconds remaining in the third quarter which tied things up at 83, which was huge going into the final stretch.
Neto went out for a few minutes when he was replaced by Donovan Mitchell, but returned back to close the game with just under 8 minutes remaining. He swooshed a three off a screen on the wing to give the Jazz the lead at 91-90, and then gave them the lead again with a driving bucket a few minutes later. He finished another tough layup with under 90 seconds to go that helped keep the Jazz lead, ultimately leading to their victory.
Neto fished with 10 points on 4-8 shooting (2-4 from three), 5 rebounds, and 2 assists in 17 very important minutes and helped the Jazz get a win. That’s just the type of thing that Raulzinho has done for the Jazz the last few years, even though many haven’t noticed it. Just like that Honda Accord, comes in, does his job, and gets a W.
There’s a lot of things Neto does that you would never even notice if stats were not tracked. For example, you probably wouldn’t realize that the Jazz have the highest net rating differential with Raul Neto on the court at 15.6. When Neto is off the court, that number drops to 1.8. Obviously it’s a relatively small sample size (300 minutes on court vs 2590 off) but that difference is pretty drastic. When Neto is on the court for the Jazz, they outscore their opponents, it’s pretty simple stuff.
You might also not realize that Neto has the third-highest box plus-minus on the team behind Joe Ingles and Rudy Gobert at 4.1. Or that he has the highest field goal percentage among guards on the roster at 49 percent. He also leads the team in Assist-to-turnover ratio which is pretty huge for a backup point guard.
With the status of Ricky Rubio unclear at this point in time, Raul Neto is going to need to continue to step up and produce for the Utah Jazz. If it means him starting, coming off the bench, playing 30 minutes or playing 3. He’s gotta be ready. And if the past is any sign of things to come, Raulzinho is more than ready.