As is his habit, Raul Neto was a positive impact player on the floor for the Utah Jazz this past season. Unfortunately, his year was once again mired by injury.
Like white on rice, injuries and the Utah Jazz have gone hand in hand in recent years. For many, Dante Exum has been the poster boy for this unfortunate phenomenon, which stands to reason — in terms of games played, the former No. 5 overall pick has missed more than half of his first five years in the league. Ouch.
That said, another member of Utah’s backcourt has definitely pushed Exum for the dubious distinction of being the most banged-up Jazzman. I’m talking about Raul Neto, who continues to be one of the team’s most positive players, but just can’t seem to stay on the floor.
Seriously, his list of ailments over the last two years is impressive (depressive might be a better word).
In 2017-18, Neto missed half the year with everything from a concussion to a broken wrist to hamstring soreness, bruised ribs, a knee bone contusion, an injured quad, foot soreness and a sprained ankle. In ’18-19, thigh soreness, a pulled groin, multiple hamstring issues, a lip laceration, concussion and ankle soreness equated to a 37-game season for the 27-year-old.
It’s a shame, really, because when Neto is actually out on the court, good things happen for the Jazz band. His on/off and per 100 possession numbers are all shockingly good; Neto’s offensive rating (114.8), defensive rating (97.3), net rating (17.5) and net swing (14.0) all led the team.
Individually, he logged multiple career-best performances per 36 minutes. By that measure, he put up 14.9 points, 7.1 assists and 4.7 rebounds, which were all new highs. And while his 3-point percentage dipped from over 40 percent in ’17-18 to 33 percent this past year, he still logged a career-high effective field goal percentage of 52.2.
On eye test alone, Neto has the look of a guy who gets things done despite limited action; he rarely blows you away with his athleticism, but he plays hard and generally leaves things better than how he found them. His is a case where the numbers actually support what our eyes are telling us.
Clearly, he’s an NBA player and a quality back-up point guard, his ’18-19 efforts proved as much. Alas, the year he head probably proved another idea to be true, which brings us back to where we started — as solid as he is in his role, he simply cannot stay on the floor.
His body seemingly wasn’t built to withstand the 82-game NBA grind, even in a tertiary role.
So, how do you grade a season that legitimizes someone as a skilled NBA backcourt player, while simultaneously suggesting he doesn’t have to physical fortitude to warrant his spot? For my part, I’m tempted to give him an incomplete until he can actually give us another full-season sample size.
However, given his continued positive impact in the games he did play, many of which were done at something less than 100 percent health, I can’t help but give Neto high marks in spite of the injury/attendance issue.
2018-19 Grade: A-
The Jazz have a hard decision to make this summer with regards to his non-guaranteed salary for next season. He’s been a good player and a model citizen, and he comes on the cheap, but can the Jazz afford to devote salary and a roster spot to a player who often can’t play?
Exum isn’t the only guy that question needs to be asked about.
Other 2018-19 Utah Jazz Player Grades: